Sunday, June 21, 2015

Week Three at Independence: New Storage Room, New Problems

                The last time I left off I was just about complete in one of the storage rooms in the Second Bank. Gloria, the museum registrar, asked me to inventory the 20+ cabinets. Done about once a year, the inventory is a vital part in taking account of all of the Park’s objects, ensuring that objects are not missing or have sustained new damage. The project in this storage room took me about three weeks to complete, and with that, Karie took me through the second phase of the project.

                The Second Bank consists of various storage rooms, one of which I will work in for the next few weeks. This new storage area is an entirely different battle in artifact conservation. The strategy for cleaning was about the same, but the structure and needs of this room were completely different than that of my first few weeks.

                Firstly, the shelves are about seven feet tall, which makes the shelves a little more difficult to clean. The shelves are taller and wider to accommodate larger artifacts, such as chairs, couches, busts, etc. In addition to the shelves of furniture and racks of artwork, there are dozens of rows of textiles. This is certainly a challenge that I didn’t have in the first room, where most of the objects were light, primarily paper-based, and stored in shorter cabinets. Many of the objects are too big for me to physically move myself, so it’s a game of doing the best I can in such a large space. As Karie explained the new phase of the project, she made it clear that while it is important to invest time in conserving the objects, I also need to take into account the damage that also comes from physically moving objects in poor condition simply as a result of deterioration over time.  It’s certainly frustrating to know that not all of the artifacts can be restored or cleaned due to the storage room’s space restrictions, but a wide sweep of the room is an important first step in preserving what is already there.

                Working in a new room means a new pace for my days. In the mornings I work in the storage area, and in the afternoons, I complete data entry for the museum database. Called the Interior Collections Management System (ICMS), it’s a NPS cataloging system for all of the museum’s historical and archaeological objects. While I’ve used the cataloging system PastPerfect extensively in the past, I am new to ICMS. Gloria walked me through some of the basics of using ICMS. Each artifact receives a specific classification according to NPS standards, along with fields for current location, provenance, market value, etc. This helps Gloria and Karie keep track of where each artifact is at all times, as well as keeps an organized way of classifying such a high volume of objects. I’m tasked with cataloging several dozen objects, which will take me a few weeks as I balance that along with working in the storage room.

                While I’ve been in a trainee position for the last two weeks, I was required to test my skills and share them with another student this past week. One of the interns in the park works in the ProRanger Program co-sponsored between Temple University and the NPS. He spent two days in the storage areas where I covered some of the basics of collections management, including wearing gloves while handling objects, inventorying principles, and the parameters of the project. Working in such a diverse park as Independence requires that all employees are aware of the park’s different departments to understand how it functions at large, so the ProRanger Program is fantastic in that it exposes all students to various tasks in the park.


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