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.

3 Thoughts to “Module 7 Collection management videos”

  1. Barbara Long

    Good Evening Martin,

    Wow, I like your post. We need more valuable volunteers. As, I was preparing a curation agreement, the museum manager called me. We were discussing a possible exhibit later this year for the two military bases. She proceeded to tell me that her office and exhibit area is shared with the post office on campus. I was shocked that space was limited, just a few feet. A few weeks later, I was talking with one of our contractors who graduated from this university. He stated, they have a huge warehouse in the back of the campus that use to store all their artifacts with plenty of room. Space, volunteers and dependable equipment is a must for any museum. Our posts share mutual topics that provide perspectives on museum management and their needs. Thanks for sharing.
    Respectfully,
    Barbara

  2. Michael Hubert

    Martin, really enjoyed reading your post this week, we some good insite into space and volunteerism. and with Barbras shows a different side of things. it still amazes me that when were are tasked to do more with less how we can come up with so good plans and rise to the occasion. great read this week

  3. Angela Linn

    It’s great to hear about the challenges the FTVRR faced when moving into your new building and some of the complications of managing an “industrial collection” where the objects actually operate in the way they were intended. I’m always impressed by the resourcefulness and creativity of folks who work in small, local museums and how connected they are to their supporters. They are welcoming places and bigger museums certainly have plenty they can learn from them. Thanks for sharing your back-of-house spaces!

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