“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.
By 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.
Unfortunately, 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.
For 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.