Monday, November 26, 2007

Catching up on collections

While I work on an exhibit, new donations to the collection patiently wait to be cataloged. Once an exhibit opens, I focus my time on getting all of that work done, with the help of my volunteers and intern.

My volunteers generally catalog artifacts and leave them for me to number, photograph, and put away in storage. Val, my intern this semester, has learned how to properly number the artifacts and to photograph them.

Val works on the collection.

Numbering objects is a two-step process. First, we put down a layer of B-72 acryloid laquer, which is a clear, acid free liquid that resembles clear nail polish. Several years ago, curators actually used clear nail polish, but over time it will flake away and your object becomes separated from its number, which is a curatorial nightmare! The B-72 is stable and will not come off.

Val puts a layer of B-72 on a new acquisition.

Next, we write the number on the layer of B-72 using a fine tip, acid free marker. You have to be very careful, and write the numbers as clearly as possible so people in the future will be able to identify the artifact. We always place the number in a place that is slightly hidden, so that when the object is on exhibit, its number won't show.

Once the artifact is numbered, we take its picture. The photo will be added to the database record of the artifact.

To find the right place for it in collection storage, we have to search the database for other things that are similar. Each sub-group of the collection -- such as glassware, textiles, shoes, etc. -- is stored together.

The process takes about 10 minutes per artifact, which is a lot of time when you consider that we accept nearly 1000 artifacts every year!

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