Inside a blue block, white text reads AASLH Online Course Caring for Museum Collections. Behind the blue block is a shelf with assorted small toys.

Online Course: Caring for Museum Collections

An AASLH Small Museum Pro! Online Course

Course Description

This eight week course will deal with the physical care and preservation of your museum collections. This practical course will cover how collections age and deteriorate, handling collections, storage requirements, environmental considerations, housekeeping, and risk management.

Each week of this course contains a narrative discussion of a topic in the form of Lessons. The lessons and web-based readings, combined with your professional experiences, will provide you with a grounding in the week’s topic.

Details

COURSE DATES: January 27 - March 22, 2020

COST: $195 AASLH Members / $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: November 1, 2019 - January 19, 2020; 30 participant limit

REGISTER HERE

Course Logistics

FORMAT: Online, instructor-led, weekly-paced course 

LENGTH: 8 weeks 

PARTICIPATION: Weekly readings and exercises; Weekly forum discussions; Four real-time online chats - schedule to be determined by the instructor at the start of the course - if you are unable to attend a chat you can read the transcript and then post your thoughts/questions in the General Forum; Students should expect to spend approximately 5 hours per week on the course.

MATERIALS: This course requires participants have access to museum collections to successfully complete this course, either as a staff member, volunteer, or intern. There are no required texts for this course. All other materials will be provided.

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course (80% or higher) will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro! certificate from AASLH.

Participant Outcomes

After completing this course, participants will understand principles and best practices of physical care and preservation of museum collections including the following:

  • Know the major causes of deterioration for museum objects and how to use that information to enhance long-term preservation;
  • Know how to handle objects in the safest way;
  • Know how to examine and document the condition of objects in your collections;
  • Know how to display your collections in a way that prolongs their life;
  • Know how to store and house your collections in the way that best preserves them;
  • Understand the importance of environmental control for the preservation of your collections;
  • Know the best ways to clean your museum; and
  • Know how to perform a risk assessment of your museum and use it to write a disaster plan.

Who Should Take This Course

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with conservation of collections. This course requires participants have access to museum collections to successfully complete this course, either as a staff member, volunteer, or intern.

Instructor

Rebecca Elder is an experienced cultural heritage preservation consultant who helps clients find practical and achievable solutions to care for their history collections. She collaborates with libraries, museums, archives, municipalities and families to tailor preservation plans to their resources and timelines.

In 2014, Rebecca founded Rebecca Elder Cultural Heritage Preservation to provide preservation advice to clients holding history collections. Rebecca has also worked at Amigos Library Services, the Harvard University Libraries and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Rebecca received her MSIS and a Certificate of Advanced Studies for Conservation of Library and Archival Materials from the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, and now is adjunct faculty at the iSchool, teaching Preservation Management and Treatment Techniques for Bound Materials.  She also serves as coordinator for the National Heritage Responders, a team of volunteer conservators and allied professionals who respond to disasters.

Rebecca is a Professional Associate member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. She also engages in professional service with the American Institute for Conservation, the Society of American Archivists, the Society of Southwest Archivists, and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums.

Rebecca lives in Austin, TX with her four cats: Frankie, Princess Snowball, Thingy and Tucker the Most Interesting Cat In The World (@heytuckercat on Instagram). She knits obsessively, collects smashed pennies, and isn’t afraid to admit that she loves 1970s white polyester jumpsuit Elvis.  Looking to connect? Head to www.elderpreservation.com. She’ll be glad you did.


Webinar: Introduction to Audio, Visual & Film Media and Their Care

Join us for a lively overview of the many types of media & materials that comprise audiovisual media and movie film. The information will be presented in an historical context to give the participants an ability to more accurately identify these types of artifacts that may be in their collections.

How do we care for all these different media? Care & storage practices will be presented along with the various media. A glossary and handouts will help participants to best care for any media & materials in their own space.

Details:

DATE: December 5, 2019

TIME: 3:00 - 4:30 pm EASTERN (Remember to adjust for your time zone)

COST: $40 AASLH Members / $65 Nonmembers

We will record this event. Access the Recorded Webinar in the AASLH Resource Center after the event has passed. Registrants of this event receive complimentary access to the recording in their Dashboard. 

Closed captioning is provided for this event.

REGISTER HERE

Speaker:

image

Kim Du Boise is President and Sr. Conservator of PhotoArts Imaging Professionals, LLC in Hattiesburg, MS. Ms. Du Boise has more than four decades’ experience with photographic materials as a photographer, college instructor, printmaker & conservator. Since 2001, Kim and her staff have served clients in more than 35 states and Canada. Projects include conservation treatments, preservation projects, collections assessments, traditional & digital archiving of mixed collections, and the remediation of fire, smoke, water & storm-damaged materials.

She is a Professional Associate of the AIC, active in the MS Gulf Coast Alliance for Response, an approved assessor for the Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program, and serves as an expert on the Connecting to Collections Care forum; all programs of the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC). Ms. Du Boise has served as a collections assessor for museum archives in photographic, audio & visual materials, digital media, carriers & assets for NEH grantees. She is a consultant for small to large museums, archives, and university-based special collections. Kim is an instructor for MuseumStudy.com and gives workshops on photographic and audio-visual materials & collections care at client locations.

Her firm is unique in the southeast U.S. for its mission and services. She and her partner provide conservation, digitization, and restoration for photographic materials, films – negative & positive, individual stills from 35mm up to 11x14, and movies from 8 & 16 mm, sound & silent, B&W to color, negative or positive. Her partner is a member of the AIC Electronic Media Group with specialties in audio materials – records to modern audio discs, movie films to VHS, BETA, and ¾” U-Matic video tapes to digital materials. Ms. Du Boise has experience in A-V media collection assessment and remediation of mold and organic materials on audio & visual tapes/films.

Kim is a member of the Photographic Materials Group, the Conservators in Private Practice, the Electronic Media Group, the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network, and a contributor to the AIC Wiki.


Inside a blue block, white text reads AASLH Online Course Caring for Museum Collections. Behind the blue block is a shelf with assorted small toys.

Online Course: Caring for Museum Collections

An AASLH Small Museum Pro! Online Course

Course Description

This eight week course will deal with the physical care and preservation of your museum collections. This practical course will cover how collections age and deteriorate, handling collections, storage requirements, environmental considerations, housekeeping, and risk management.

Each week of this course contains a narrative discussion of a topic in the form of Lessons. Lessons are must-reads. Lessons, along with readings from the two course books and the handouts, combined with your professional experiences, will provide you with a grounding in the week’s topic.

Participant Outcomes

After completing this course, participants will understand principles and best practices of physical care and preservation of your museum collections including the following:

  • Know the major causes of deterioration for museum objects and how to use that information to enhance long-term preservation;
  • Know how to handle objects in the safest way;
  • Know how to examine and document the condition of objects in your collections;
  • Know how to display your collections in a way that prolongs their life;
  • Know how to store and house your collections in the way that best preserves them;
  • Understand the importance of environmental control for the preservation of your collections;
  • Know the best ways to clean your museum; and
  • Know how to perform a risk assessment of your museum and use it to write a disaster plan.

Logistics

COURSE DATES: August 5 - September 29, 2019

COST: $195 AASLH Members/ $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: April 25 -  July 29, 2019; 30 person limit

REGISTER HERE

Details

FORMAT: Online, weekly-paced course.

LENGTH: 8 weeks

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Weekly forum discussions, assignments

MATERIALS: There are no required texts for this course. All materials will be provided.

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro! certificate from AASLH.

Who Should Take This Course

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with conservation of collections. This course requires participants have access to museum collections to successfully complete this course, either as a staff member, volunteer, or intern.

Instructor

Rebecca Elder is an experienced cultural heritage preservation consultant who helps clients find practical and achievable solutions to care for their history collections. She collaborates with libraries, museums, archives, municipalities and families to tailor preservation plans to their resources and timelines.

In 2014, Rebecca founded Rebecca Elder Cultural Heritage Preservation to provide preservation advice to clients holding history collections. Rebecca has also worked at Amigos Library Services, the Harvard University Libraries and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Rebecca received her MSIS and a Certificate of Advanced Studies for Conservation of Library and Archival Materials from the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, and now is adjunct faculty at the iSchool, teaching Preservation Management and Treatment Techniques for Bound Materials.  She also serves as coordinator for the National Heritage Responders, a team of volunteer conservators and allied professionals who respond to disasters.

Rebecca is a Professional Associate member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. She also engages in professional service with the American Institute for Conservation, the Society of American Archivists, the Society of Southwest Archivists, and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums.

Rebecca lives in Austin, TX with her four cats: Frankie, Princess Snowball, Thingy and Tucker the Most Interesting Cat In The World (@heytuckercat on Instagram). She knits obsessively, collects smashed pennies, and isn’t afraid to admit that she loves 1970s white polyester jumpsuit Elvis.  Looking to connect? Head to www.elderpreservation.com.  She’ll be glad you did.


Book Review: Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections: A Practical Guide for Museums

This review originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of History News.

Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections: A Practical Guide for Museums
By Angela Kipp
(Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016)
Reviewed by Christina Bulow

In her book Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections: A Practical Guide for Museums, Angela Kipp outlines the best approaches to tackle the daunting task of identifying the needs of and caring for small, unmanaged collections. Since not all museum professionals work with previously documented and organized collections, her book is meant to act as guide for those who find themselves responsible for sorting, planning, and caring for collections that have seen little to no professional museum care.

In her first chapter, aptly titled "Congratulations, It’s Your Mess Now," Kipp instructs the reader on how to first develop a new mindset not taught in standard courses on collections management or exhibited in well-managed collections. These "counterintuitive" mindsets are: "1. Think of the whole collection, not single objects, 2. You are a collections manager, now think like a project manager, and 3. See the big picture, work in small steps" (1).  Kipp states that by focusing on the collection as a whole rather than on individual objects, you will better be able to face your inherited mess.

Chapters two through five describe how to approach unmanaged collections, starting with the initial walkthrough to planning, organizing, and ultimately, implementation and documentation. Each chapter lists a "logical exit." Kipp defines these as natural stopping points throughout the process that will allow you or your "future self" to pick up where you stopped. This helps to break up an overwhelming situation into smaller, more manageable goals.

The remaining chapters discuss useful strategies utilizing local resources, including people inside and outside your institution. Chapter six explores how to create and foster human relationships to find useful resources, while chapter seven reviews documentation strategies. Chapter eight tackles storage issues from the perspective of long-term planning based on your objects, resources, and available space. Finally, Chapter nine outlines creative fundraising and support for your institution.

Each chapter features real world examples that illustrate successes from other institutions, including a "grandmother fix" of painting windows in a storage space to reduce light levels and establishing a numbering system for storage spaces to replace confusing common names. The ethos of this book is that you may make mistakes, but the goal is to learn from those mistakes and continue with your mission to improve the collections. Finally, the last chapter includes success stories from seven institutions, describing their strategies and processes for organizing unmanaged collections.

Although the methods outlined in this book do not follow strict best practice of museum studies courses and literature, it gives the readers the tools to accomplish varying levels of good practice concerning collections care, documentation, and collections planning. Kipp lets the reader know that it is okay to make a series of small improvements when you do not have the time, money, resources, or staff to completely overhaul your collection to meet all best practice standards. This book not only serves as a useful guide on how to approach unmanaged collections, but it also leaves the reader with a sense that they are not alone in their situations. Every collection has room for improvement, and any improvement, no matter how small, can be considered a success.

Christina Bulow has been the Assistant Curator at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor for three years. She completed her MA in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester and has worked as a volunteer and contractor in small and medium sized museums. She can be reached at [email protected]

Are you interested in contributing reviews to History News? Apply here.


ASK FSA: Fur and Feathers in Costume Collection

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19th Century Hawaiian Feather Cape, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Collection (Via)

Fur and feathers in museum collections present a special set of circumstances. Besides the obvious taxidermy, natural history and ethnographic collections, many museums house fur and feathers in costume and textile collections.

One major issue is care. Fur and feathers are very fragile and require extra care and handling. Fur prefers colder storage conditions than most museum items (34 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit). Since most museums are not equipped with the necessary storage for fur, keep current fur collection items as cold as possible and monitor for deterioration.

 

New Hats.nypl.digitalcollections
What The New Hats From Paris Are Like, 1910. Artistry by C.G. Sheldon. Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection, New York Public Library

Another issue is their attractiveness to pests. Not only are fur and feathers easy places to hide in the short term, but also warm, inviting spots to live long-term. Because pests are drawn to these items, house them together in order to monitor for and contain any infestation. Similarly, before bringing a fur or feather item into the museum's permanent storage, isolate it first (even just in a clear tub if it fits safely) and carefully examine it for any evidence of pests hitching a ride.

Fur and feathers in collections also bring along legal issues.* A variety of laws protect and regulate the use of fur and feathers, with many also extending to flora, fauna, and fish. The most common laws with implications to museum collections are the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Each seeks to provide a legal framework in which items made from the fur or feathers of certain animals can be legally procured, sold, and bought. Often it is in the selling and purchasing of historic items that museums run into issues concerning these laws, especially when dealing across state lines or country borders. Some auction houses refuse to sell deaccessioned items containing certain fur or feathers because they cannot guarantee the items were created legally.

 

Fur coat.nypl.digitalcollections
Men's Fur Coat, United States, 1901s. Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection, New York Public Library.

Many laws contain provisions for historic items (usually more than 100 years of age), but if further information is requested the burden of proof is on the owner to prove that the item was legally hunted and created – a difficult task for many. There are also exceptions for fur and feathers legally obtained prior to the laws' creation even though they are now considered illegal.

Fur and feathers take special care and consideration in costume and textile collections. When choosing whether or not to accept an acquisition containing these items consider if what they add to the collection outweighs the special issues they may bring with them.

*Note: the contents of this article are not legal advice, they are simply meant to make the reader aware of some of the generalities about these laws. Ultimately any question concerning how a specific law affects a museum should be handled by a lawyer and the consultation of the law in its original, legal form as produced by the government.

What is the FSA?

The Field Services Alliance (FSA) is an organized group of individuals, offices, and agencies that provide training opportunities, guidance, technical services, and other forms of assistance to local historical societies, archives, libraries, and museums in their respective states or regions. Learn more and find an FSA member in your area here.

Want to write for AASLH? Learn more about requirements and submit your article here. 

 


The Words (and numbers) Still Matter

The Words (and numbers) Still Matter

In the context of a conference on computerization of museum catalog records, more than 20 years ago, I predicted that I wouldn’t live long enough to see documentary photographs routinely incorporated into catalog records. Was I ever wrong!

evolving-technology-videodisc

Of course, back then the storage of images ate up large gulps of hard drive “real estate” that was still being measured in tens of megabytes. Videodisc platters (above) could accommodate vast numbers of images, but could neither be edited nor added to once they had been recorded. Moreover, the cost of their production and the hardware to run them limited their use to large institutions that could afford to ride on the “bleeding edge” of technology. “Cloud storage” was still reserved for raindrops and occasional hailstones. I never dreamed that onboard storage capacities of ordinary desktop or even laptop computers would reach gigabyte and terabyte magnitudes while still remaining within the range of affordability for museums of even modest means.

Another prediction that I made at the same time (and which, sadly, may be coming true) was that when and if images could be routinely added to catalog records it would result in a lessening of attention paid to the recording of “old fashioned” alphanumeric descriptive information. I’m afraid that is happening.

It’s only natural, I suppose, if you’re generating a record that includes a photograph of something round and red, and with a scale indicating a 10-inch maximum dimension, to regard these features as so obvious that there’s no need to “waste” time and effort by entering “round” or “red” or “10 inches” via keystrokes. That’s so 20th century, right?

WRONG! It’s important to remember that the words (and numbers) still matter. Until someone develops an algorithm for searching stored images for such characteristics as redness, roundness and/or 10-inchness the search and retrieval of object records from a database will continue to rely upon those “old fashioned” words and numbers. If that alphanumeric descriptive information is not entered, an artifact, document or specimen will remain invisible to a computerized search based upon such parameters – as if it never existed.

 

 


An Illuminating Proposal: How a Small Museum Saved Big by Going Green

Waving a sheet of tablet paper covered with figures, Ted Yahraus came into our small museum one day in March and said, “I’ve figured out how the museum can save around $18,000.”

He had my full attention. Ted had retired from a commercial lighting business before beginning to volunteer at the museum. Eight years earlier, when we moved our young museum into a former drugstore, he had wrangled the donation of all the tracks, flood and spotlights we needed. He installed the fixtures and continued to drop in to check and adjust the lighting.

 

Ted with the new lights
Ted with the new lights

To save all that money, he explained, we needed to replace 150 halogen flood and spotlights with LED lamps. With LEDs we could save about $1,343 per year. They would generate less heat and less UV light – plus they could last for 16 years.

But the new lamps would cost $3,500.

My heart sank. Our budget couldn’t spare that much, even if the new lamps paid for themselves in about 2-1/2 years, before going on to save $18,000. I filed Ted’s calculations under “Wants & Wishes.”

A few weeks later, Liz Bjordal, one of our interns from DePauw University, asked if there was anything the museum wanted. She explained that she wanted to give something back to the museum before graduating and told us about the university’s internship program and its community grants program. I gave her Ted’s figures. Liz partnered with interns from the university’s sustainability group and wrote a grant application.

Ted-up-a-ladder.edited---lo
Installing the new bulbs

By the end of May, we had a check for $3,500 to purchase new LED lights. Ted negotiated a special price from a local wholesaler. Over the next two weeks, he was up and down the 14-foot ladder more than 150 times to install the bulbs.

When the June bill arrived from Duke Energy, I was confused. The bill was $344 lower than the previous June’s electric bill, and the lights had only been in for about two weeks. I attributed it to cooler weather.

The next month, we saved nearly $500, which was more than half of what we paid the previous July. After only two months, we’d already saved more than $800!

We issued a press release that made front-page news in the local paper under the headline “Museum Saves by Going Green.”

The newspaper article prompted a call from a friend of the museum, saying that Duke Energy was offering an incentive program in Indiana. She had called Duke and explained our situation. Even though the lights had been paid for with grant money, we were still eligible. We applied for and received a check for $1,589 a few weeks later.

Since hearing our story, other organizations – including a midsized distribution facility and the community foundation – are reportedly going green,.

In her grant application, Liz had written, "For artifacts such as clothing, quilts, paintings, some photographs and even early publications, exposure to intense light is comparable to being run through a dishwasher." We borrowed a UV meter and took readings around the museum. Throughout the main exhibit hall, the meter registered zero UV light.

Ted, though, was wrong about one thing: it didn’t take 2-1/2 years for the lights to pay for themselves. In less than six months, we’ve saved $1,934 on electricity.

Even if our LED bulbs hadn’t been donated, they would have paid for themselves after 5-1/2 months with the Smart $aver grant from Duke Energy.

Katherine Newkirk is Executive Director of the Putnam County Museum in Greencastle, Indiana.


Opportunity Knocks – The HHI 2014 National Collections Care Survey is Here!

(2)RevisedHHI2014Help preserve our shared heritage, increase funding for conservation, and strengthen collections care by completing the Heritage Health Information 2014 National Collections Care Survey.

The HHI 2014 is a national survey on the condition of collections held by archives, libraries, historical societies, museums, scientific research collections, and archaeological repositories. It is the only comprehensive survey to collect data on the condition and preservation needs of our nation's collections.

Recently, the directors of over 14,000 collecting institutions across the country were contacted by email to participate in this survey. The survey was sent by email with the subject: "Opportunity Knocks – The HHI 2014 National Collections Care Survey is Here!" This email contains personal survey login information. Gathering information about our nation’s state and local history institutions is absolutely essential; if invited, we encourage you to participate.

Check your inbox or go here for more information and to complete the survey. The deadline is November 24, 2014.  For questions, email [email protected] or call 202.233.0824.


Managing Military Collections in Your Museum

So you work in a small county museum or perhaps even a large institution.

A donor walks in and hands you a uniform and says, “my grandpa wore that in the Civil War.” Your knowledge of collections care and management is outstanding, but you have no idea whether the item the donor has includes the correct provenance, is a fake, or is perhaps from a different conflict, or maybe even from a different nation all together.

myers military camp promo
Where do you turn for help? What determinations about this historic military textile can you make on your own? What details about the garment can help you either prove or disprove the provenance?

Another donor walks into your institution with a photograph of what appears to be soldiers. Your donor knows nothing about the image. How can you begin to determine the time frame of the image or even the nationality?

Back in the 1950s your institution collected everything they could acquire including what appear to be cannon balls, grenades, and firearms. Are they safe? Are they still live? Are the weapons loaded?

AASLH has many resources for dealing with military artifacts, including:

If you have faced any of these challenges or anticipate that you will, then AASLH can offer help. The best way to begin to understand the nature of military collections and the details unique to military artifacts is to attend the AASLH Military Collections Camp in Oklahoma City in June. We will explore these topics and many, many more issues related to military collections. The camp is not only a learning opportunity it is also packed with fun.

Myers Brown is an Archivist III in the Archives Development Program at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. He also is on the faculty for the AASLH Collections Camp: Military History workshop.