Statistics for Museum Geeks

The recent storage system installation at the Pope County Museum created some interesting statistics. In planning the system, we had to carefully examine the whole museum collection and how it would best fit into the new shelves. Over the years we have purchased archival boxes of different shapes to best hold dresses, uniforms and other acid sensitive objects. We have also worked hard to manage and protect the photograph collection with protective sleeves, albums and boxes.  The new shelf system was ordered based on the box sizes we use most often.

IMG_2783

Our latest shipment of photo storage pages.

One of the best things about the new storage system is that it came in under budget. However, because it is a grant funded project, the savings on one part of the project must be reassigned to other needs that fit the criteria of the grant proposal. Since only a small percentage of our objects and records were in proper protective enclosures, we ordered boxes. $10,000 worth of acid free boxes!  And albums: 121 slip-covered albums. And protective sleeves for photographs and negatives: 180 pounds of sleeves! Even the delivery man commented, “Man, these boxes are heavy!”

 

The acid free boxes arrived almost a year ago and have mostly been assembled and put to use. The albums arrived next and will eventually hold the photo negatives from the Pope County Tribune, 1956 – 2003. It takes longer to put these together because the images are so interesting, they can be fully identified, and many of them fit into a single album. So far two albums have been filled to help us determine that we needed 121 albums and 9,400 polyethylene pages for negative storage (180 pounds according to Fed Ex!)

A huge project like this is possible because of dedicated staff members, hard-working volunteers, and “Legacy” funding. The Minnesota Clean Water, Land & Legacy Fund was created in 2008 by a statewide referendum. We all contribute to the fund through a small sales tax increase. The Pope County Historical Society has been fortunate to receive a number of these grants. We will continue to apply for funds to protect and improve access to our local history.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winter Olympics

IMG_1332.JPGEvery 4 years, our local elementary holds their own Winter Olympics. The students are assigned different nations and compete in modified events over a few weeks.

Today was the opening ceremony. Two students were chosen from each “nation” to carry the torch in the relay.

It is always a treat to bring them our Olympic torch. The adults are usually more impressed by the REAL TORCH than the students, but the torch runners understood the honor.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Found in Collection”

“Found in Collection” (FIC) is a common museum term. It is exactly what it sounds like – an item found in the collection with no proper documentation. Museums large and small deal with FIC objects.

As of today, the Pope County Museum has 1337 objects classified as FIC. I am working my way through this list to connect objects to their records whenever possible.

Some of the objects were properly cataloged when they arrived, but the object was never numbered or the number/tag on the object is missing. Those objects are relatively easy to sort out. I have all the official, numbered donation records entered into a database and can search by keyword.

1989.2402aBy searching for “Tractor” in the donation records, I was able to find records for the Hart-Parr tractor donated by Ole N. Barsness.  Once I had the donor name, it was easy to find more records to attach to the file, such as newspaper images of the tractor and Model T truck arriving at the museum.

Other times, there are clues attached to the object that can help us match it to the proper records. For example, there is a FIC shotgun in the museum that has a mailing label with the name Wilbur  Amspoker attached. I found an official record for Wilbur Amspoker donating a shotgungun, and am adding a proper museum label to the gun so that it will be permanently connected to its donation record.

2017-12-19 9Unfortunately, many of the FIC objects have no proper donation records. Some items are complete orphans, such as the grain binder in the log building. There are 2 grain binders at the museum and I only have paperwork for one.

If anyone out there knows who donated the second grain binder, please let me know. (The other is from Ole Jordahl.)  It saddens me when we can’t connect objects with their histories. – Ann

The problem of no records at all is an especially common problem for large objects. For many years, the job of recording donations and numbering artifacts fell to a dedicated group of volunteers who met once a month. It appears that the volunteers focused on smaller objects inside the museum rather than large items that were set outside or into the large storage building. They may not even have been made aware of the large, unprocessed artifacts outside.

When I find unnumbered items in the museum, I assign a temporary or FIC number until I can reunite it with its original donation number, or begin a new donation record. For items like the grain binder above where there is no donation record, the Collection Committee must decide if the artifact should officially be accepted into the collection.

xx.0665yFor many of these objects, the answer is a resounding “YES.” Yes, we should make it official that the Lowry Fire Engine is in our collection. Yes, the Soo Line signal light belongs in the collection. At our next Collection Committee meeting, we will formally and officially accept these and many other items into the collection and assign them a unique artifact number and donation record. Even if the new donation record states that the was FIC, I will record when it was first discovered in the collection and include as much information as possible about where it came from.

It is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job when I can connect artifacts to records. Connecting objects to their history is what makes our collection valuable for researchers and visitors.

 

Posted in Collection Notes, Museum updates | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Board Meeting Changed

The regular monthly meeting of the Pope County Historical Society board of directors has been changed this month.  The board will meet at the museum on Thursday, February 15 at 4:00.

The regular monthly meeting for March will be on the usual fourth Thursday, March 22.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Log Building Emptying

Our dream of building a new Agricultural Building is getting closer.

The current structure is unstable and has not been open to the public for many years. It needs to be replaced. Our current board is taking steps to make a new exhibit building a reality. They are organizing a fundraising campaign and finalizing building plans. (Please consider contributing to the building fund.)

Today, there is a team working to empty the building to prepare for demolition later this spring. It is fun to see how quickly the packed building empties out.

2017-12-19 2

The Log Building was packed with artifacts.

2017-12-19 3

You can see the gaps in the logs in the back wall. Building replacement is an imminent need.

2018-1-20 8

We may be able to host a barn dance yet!

2018-1-20 1

Artifacts will temporarily reside in a secure shipping container.

Some of the larger items will remain in the building until just before demolition, but it is a relief to have so many of the smaller items tucked away in a safe location until we have a new, structurally sound building.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Legacy of Paring Down the Collection

Musings by Ann Grandy – Collection Manager

I am feeling somewhat philosophical these days.

I recently had a visitor ask me if I was in charge of the museum. My first answer was that Merlin is the executive director, but I am in charge of the collection. I then refined my answer to say that I am the current caretaker of the collection.

I am aware that my time here at the Pope County Museum is temporary. There were several caretakers who came before me, and hopefully there will be many after me. I know that my day to day decisions will impact the future of our institution – for better or for worse. I do the best that I can, with the knowledge I have, yet I wonder if future collection managers will praise or curse my legacy. Probably a little of both.

The Pope County Historical Society started collecting artifacts in the 1930s. Items related to the early pioneers were put on display in the Pope County Courthouse. The Works Progress Administration funded newspaper cataloging and the collection of pioneer biographies. These early archives are still the heart of our library. They are absolute treasures.

The early artifacts are interesting too, but present a bit of a challenge. The earliest items were not cataloged to today’s standards. There is often just a pink index card with a donor name and the briefest description such as “spinning wheel” or “musket”. The cards are numbered, but there are no corresponding numbers on the artifacts. Had the person typing the card added any detail about the item, such as if it was painted blue or had any markings carved on the side, it would make matching the card to the item so much easier for me.

Some of the cards note that the artifact is with us on loan. That is another issue altogether. Dealing with old loans made by people no longer living is a legally complicated matter.  As a result, I no longer accept loans for anything other than a very temporary exhibit, and I leave the existing loans as they are… hanging out here in our collection.

In 1966, the Historical Society built the current museum and instituted a modern artifact numbering system. The best practices that were in use in 1966 are the same as they are today. I have been blessed to inherit a collection that is (for the most part) well-ordered in comparison to many other small historical museums.

Most of the objects are physically numbered. The number corresponds to their donation paperwork and a subject card with a description of the item. 015Unfortunately, of the approximately 12,000 three-dimensional objects in the collection, I have found at least 1,400 that are not numbered. I have no record of who donated these items or why they are important to Pope County history. I know that SOMEONE brought in these mystery items for a reason and that they somehow just didn’t get numbered.  I am doing my best to work through the paperwork that is missing artifacts and the artifacts missing paperwork to see if I can make any connections. I am sometimes successful. I’ll be honest – I do a little happy dance when I can positively connect an artifact to its story. I hope that my detective work will be a blessing to future collection managers.

In addition to the un-numbered artifacts, my other challenge is the sheer volume of the collection. We now have a robust collection policy that focuses on items that will illustrate Pope County history and discourages us from accepting duplicate or poor quality items. In the past, my predecessors simply accepted anything offered. As a result, we have more objects than we can reasonably store or care for.

The indiscriminate acceptance policy has saddled us with a collection well beyond what we can care for. There are many duplicate items. For example, we have 23 trunks, 35 pair of eyeglasses, even 3 full sets of optometrist lens kits. Until last week, we had 5 wicker baby buggies. In the case of buggies and trunks, the items take up a huge amount of space and even the smaller items such as eyeglasses are more than we need to tell Pope County stories.

The large log building on our campus has become a catch-all for duplicate or large items. As an un-heated building, it is a terrible place to store artifacts.008 The constant change in temperature and humidity, the mice and the dust shorten the lifespan of any artifact left in that building. Items such as tractors can tolerate those conditions better than all wood pieces. Some of the items could move inside, but only if I pare down the duplicate/poor quality items inside the main building.  Unless we plan to build a new, climate controlled storage building, paring down the collection is the only answer. The current board of directors is planning to rebuild our log building into a better exhibit/outdoor storage space. This is exciting news, but also daunting. The building needs to be empty before demolition/construction. It does not make sense to move duplicate/poor quality items into rented storage space for the duration of the construction project, especially if they are items we won’t be using in the new exhibits. The pressure is on to go through the collection sooner than later and determine what to keep and what to remove.

Our collection policy helps guide me (and the collection committee and board of directors) through the process of removing an item from the collection. But it still isn’t an easy process.

It starts with me. (No pressure, right?!?) I select an item that I feel does not belong in our collection. It may be a duplicate, or poor quality (broken items have been accepted into the collection), or not have a relevant Pope County connection, or simply be too large to properly store and care for. Using the above examples of 5 baby buggies and 23 trunks: Paring down the baby buggies was relatively easy, since only 2 have Pope County stories connected to them the remaining 3 were sold at an on-site auction. But… what about the 23 trunks? We certainly do not need 23 trunks to tell the story of immigration to Pope County, and they take up a huge amount of space. 10 of them have no story that I have been able to connect, so we can reduce the number by almost half. But it is still emotionally difficult to pare down objects that represent a person’s life-changing experience of leaving their home forever to move to the other side of the world.

I bring each item before our Collection Committee and explain why I feel it should be removed from the collection. If they agree with my recommendation, the item goes before the board of directors. If the board votes to remove the item from the collection, it is officially “Deaccessioned” and the real work begins.

For each deaccessioned item, I need to try to locate the original donor to see if he or she would like to take the item back. If I am unsuccessful, I contact other museums to see if the item is a good fit for their collections. We assume that the original donor would like to item to be available for display or research and do our best to find proper museum homes for the items.

If that does not work, we offer items for public auction. This is a tricky step. We want the public to know and to understand what it is we are doing with the treasures entrusted into our care and why we are doing it. At the same time, we need to make certain that people don’t think that we are just auctioning off antiques to make money. We want everyone to know that we really DO care for our treasures. The decision to remove an item is not made on its potential monetary value. Any money that we do make on the

auction goes directly back into the care of the collection – not for raises for the staff or for new construction projects. When I show people 5 cradle scythes or 20 typewriters, they understand why we need to refine the collection and remove duplicates, but rumors of mismanagement could do irreparable harm to our reputation.

9-1 108

In addition to the physically removing and object, I also must keep records of the entire process for each and every object. Why it was removed, what steps I took to find it a new home, and where it went. This information, along with a photograph, is retained in paper and electronic form. If anyone comes to the museum to see an item that has been deaccessioned, the museum will have a record explaining the entire processes.

I hope that I am making the right decisions to refine our collection so that we can properly store, care for and exhibit the fine artifacts we have; that the artifacts we keep will be the right ones to help us illustrate Pope County history. I am doing the best that I can with the knowledge I have, yet I am sure that I will make some mistakes along they way that will be cursed by future museum staff and/or researchers. I just hope that the legacy I leave from my time as temporary caretaker of the collection will be a net benefit to future staff and researchers.

 

Posted in Collection Notes | 1 Comment

THANK YOU

Thank you to everyone who made our Open House and Silent Auction a success!

We had a HUGE turnout on Saturday and all week long. This was our most successful auction yet – raising $8,000!

We appreciate everyone who donated, bid, sponsored advertising, baked & served goodies and just stopped by to see what is new at the museum.

We are blessed to have such great community support.

EVENT SPONSORS
American Diversity
Counselor Realty
Dental Health Services
DyCast Specialties
Eagle Insurance Agency
First Rate Glass
Glenwood Lions Club
Kar Kraft
Lowry Insurance
Lowry State Bank
Minnewaska Kayaks
Pfeninger Trucking
Prairie Lakes Co-op
Strecker Agency
Studio E Architects, LLC
SILENT AUCTION DONORS
A & W Lane Studio
Ace Hardware Margaret Claeson
Affordable Floor Covering Margaret Kettells
Alexandria Area Arts Association Marion Pladson
American Solutions for Business Marthaler Chevrolet
Amie Stark – Thirty-one Gifts Mary Smith
Andes Tower Hills Meco7 / Valley Troll
Ann Grandy Midwest Machinery
Beth Snider Minette Johnson
BK Towing Minnesota Timberwolves
Bob and Nancy Gandrud Minnesota Vikings
Bobbers Marine Minnewaska Bait & Tackle
Bremer Bank of Starbuck Minnewaska Liquors
Brenda Flemal Minnewaska Marine
Canary Beach Resort National Farmers Union
Central Square Neil and Connie Lageson
Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company North Shore Store
Cinema 9 North Shore Store
Creative Images Hair Salon & Spa Office Bar
Custom Comfort Beds Palmer Creations
D. Michael B.’s Papa Murphy’s Take N Bake Pizza
Dave & JoAnne Peterson Pauline Opdahl
David and Dawn Thompson Peters Sunset Beach & Golf Course
Deanna Cooley Pope County Tribune
Donna Sandmeyer Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort
Doolittles Woodfire Grill RiverPine Christmas Trees
Dorrich Dairy Robert Greenfield & Richard Grella
Duffy’s Roadhouse Rolling Forks Vinyard
Eagle Bank Rose Evenson
EcoWater Samuelson Drug Store
Eunice Peterson Shopko
Gail Larson Sid Stivland
Glacial Ridge Health Systems Starbuck Meats & Locker
Glacial Ridge Wellness Center Starbuck Telephone Company
Glenwood Fleet Supply Stoen’s Hydrostatic Service Inc.
Grand Casino Mille Lacs Target
Grog Shop employees Tastefully Simple
Gulsvig Productions Terri Elsey
Hair Mix The Boulder Tap House
Isdahl Hardware The Emporium
Jan Caldwell The Pastry Shoppe, Inc.
Johnson Chiropractic and Sports Timothy’s Carpet & Air Care
Kadejan Tom’s Market
Karen Kirckof Villard Cenex
Lakeland Mental Health Walmart
Lakeside Water’s Edge
Wendy Zander

We are grateful to our volunteers:
Phyllis Sorensen             Mary SmitH
Gail Larson                      Donna Becker
Dave Cooley                        Bonnie Stock
David Lent                      Gloria Nichtern
Margaret Claeson            Mark Halverson
Steve Martin                   Ted Halverson
Kathy Claussen               Jim Gloege
Peggy Metz                     Todd Gylsen
Gavin Jenson                  Courtney Grammentz
GFWC Potpourri Club

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Museum Staff and Board of Directors:

Merlin Peterson – Executive Director
Ann Grandy – Collection Manager
Brent Gulsvig – Archivist

Mary Smith
Kathy Jacobs
Bob Gandrud
Mary Lisa Cochran
Neil Lageson
Elizabeth Snider
David Thompson
Gene Stark

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment