After viewing the required videos for Module 7 on collection management I was amazed at the amount of work in managing the UAMN artifacts. Seeing Stefi’s work in squishing plants, field notes and tagging the botanical specimens made me realize I don’t have enough long term organizational and documentational skills to be employed in a real museum. Compared to the meager collection at the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum of less than 200 artifacts that I had to manage, it was daunting to consider a museum career in a large well organized place like UAMN .
The TVRR museum has abut 1/4 of the total 6,000 square foot building that was built in 2006. After a year of moving in to it the soot and grime from repairs and maintenance from a coal fired steam engine, gasoline and diesel equipment permeated not only the shop but drifted into the museum from open doors and shared air handling HVAC systems. Storage space was pretty limited such that boxes of artifacts and records had to be stored outside in unheated sheds or on metal shelving along the shop walls.
This resulted in a hedge podge of donated cabinets, shelving and boxes that collected the most pervasive black coal soot not only in the shop but tracked and drifted in from the open doors between the museum that train riders exited when they got off the train.
We even got four older compactor units surplus from the local library but had to separate the moving shelving into individual racks because there was not enough room to have them mounted on the shop storage walls. The expense of organizing the collection was spread over three years for inventory and accessioning the artifacts with successive grants from the Alaska State Museum and Museums Alaska annual applications that were capped at $2K yearly. These grants included computer upgrades, a program to enter the data, archival boxes and foam for storage along with some small portions of the shelving required. Overall we spent $8K to get that segment done. This only included some funding for a professional archivist to catalog, photograph and enter the accessioned artifacts into the program Past Perfect. No staff salaries were involved because all were volunteer members.