Why do we need to DO an inventory, you ask?
Coincidentally (or maybe by alignment of the stars), I received the “Collections Caretaker” e-newsletter from the Northern States Conservation Center Thursday morning – Day 1 of the project. It couldn’t have been more apt. Rather than paraphrase the start of her piece, I’m just going to let Peggy Schaller say it because she puts it so well:
Regular inventories protect collections
by Peggy Schaller
Why are periodic inventories important?
Inventories are an important function of museum collections management. There are two reasons for doing periodic inventories. The main reason is to keep track of your collections. You cannot display or otherwise use what you cannot find. If you cannot find it, you have not lived up to your public trust responsibilities regarding your collection and the object might just as well be gone. And how do you know it is not gone? Maybe there has been a theft of which you are not aware?
Secondly, periodic inventories allow you to monitor the condition of the objects. Doing an inventory forces you to look at each individual artifact as you are verifying that it is where it is supposed to be. This is the perfect opportunity to make an examination of the current condition of your objects. If that small crack you noticed last time has gotten bigger, maybe the environmental controls need to be checked. If there is evidence of insects where there was none before, maybe you have an infestation that needs to be dealt with. Many small or large changes can be caught by regular examination of your collection.
The inventory that results from our “Collections Management and Preservation Project” will fill in this missing information and store it all in a computerized database (we use Frostbow Collection Manager 3, which I’ll write more about in a later post). We’ll also have accession sheets and a hard-copy printout for each completed artifact record. With this information at our fingertips, we will be much better positioned to serve the community and researchers alike.
Why hasn’t this inventory been done before? Mostly because it takes many more hours than the all-volunteer Hatfield Historical Society members (including myself) could afford to give. Which is where the grant comes in. Thank goodness for the Community Preservation Act (see some other historic preservation projects here) and a Community Preservation Commission that values the town’s history and heritage enough to support this work.
I’ll be making periodic posts as the work progresses and will be sure to let you know about interesting discoveries.