This year I coordinated the Core Documents Program at the IVDM, which involved revising the Museum’s Collections Management Plan, Emergency Management Plan, Ethics Policy, and Institutional Plan to meet the standards set by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). These documents passed the Core Document Review earlier this month, which is the first step of Accreditation through AAM. As part of the program, I coordinated two museum assessments that evaluated the Museum’s operation, documentation, and collections stewardship. The Museum Assessment Program, a program of AAM, and the Conservation Assessment Program, a program of Heritage Preservation, are two national standards programs funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services that provide review by a specialist knowledgeable in best practice and national museum standards.
The MAP helps small and mid-sized museums strengthen operations, plan for the future and meet national standards through self-study and a site visit from a peer reviewer. The MAP hails itself as a “self-motivated program” and I took full advantage. The first six months of this year were devoted to evaluating and re-evaluating our core documents (as defined by AAM’s Core Docu
An aspect of the MAP program is to provide your reviewer with a copy of documents, should your institution have them. As a new institution, this was a good opportunity to broaden our paper trail. I documented many of the policies and procedures we already follow in 10 new documents that guide everything from lab procedures to human resources. They are intended to provide tools with which the Museum can relay our goals and values to the community.ments Verification Program). This was rewarded with extremely supportive comments by our peer reviewer, who said our Collections Management Policy was a “model, excellent policy” and our Emergency Plan was the most thorough he’d ever seen.
The MAP final report recognizes “The Museum is in the midst of professionalizing. It has many strengths, including a very knowledgeable, dedicated, energetic, professional staff …”
During the CAP, we evaluated our conservation procedures with the assistance of Dr. Nancy Odegaard, Arizona State Museum’s Lead Conservator and Head of the Preservation Department – a leader in the field. My specialty is in archives and so the discussions with Nancy were invaluable for moving the archaeology conservation lab toward the highest regional standard.
Today the staff tested one of the recommendations Dr. Odegaard made during her visit in September, I described how we accession items into the museum – using B-72 reversible adhesive and writing numbers to identify the objects – pretty standard procedure. Nancy suggested we type the numbers rather than write them – eliminating the age old museum problem of deciphering handwriting and reading tiny little numbers. A simple but elegant solution. The CAP final report is expected by March 2014.
Just going through the pictures I’ve accumulated:
In-house pest control and conservation on baskets:
The sunrise leaves me with one more reason this place is next closest thing to Australia:
isn’t far from this:
One difference: no sun-kissed Ocotillo like this in Australia
And one of our neighbors introduced me to the rarely seen desert tortoise. She has them as pets:
This is me at the midway Museum back in February, pushing buttons like a little kid:
"Uh, these don't work anymore, right?"
And, lest we need reminding, the most successful exhibits aren’t always the newest:
1930’s Lantern Slides
This week I began to focus in earnest on the conservation of a collection of Lantern slides from the 1930’s. The countertops for the conservation lab cabinets are ordered and their delivery and install are taking the wind out of a lot of other sails, including the conservation project. We order supplies as we run out. We focus on information gathering and surveying the collections and planning how we are going to run the volunteer days when the lab is complete. There will be much rejoicing when the lab is done.
In the meantime, last week the information paper trail thinned, PastPerfect arrived, and the user’s manual was developed. I felt justified in doing a little actual conservation work. Then the countertops were back ordered until the 5th of March. It’s always something. But no matter, we pressed on with the conservation under the excuse of piloting the system we’d set up for the volunteers.
It’s imperative that artifacts like delicate lantern slides get priority care, anyway. The outside temperature is heating up as “spring” approaches the desert. Getting the glass slides into the building while the inside and outside temperature are similar was a big priority. That accomplished, the ideal environment for slides minimizes direct light and provides a cool environment to counteract the chemical break down of the image. For the archeology collections, I’m encouraging a swift processing time except for extraordinary artifacts, but I’m demanding that each slide get full processing attention. They are wiped clean with an ultra soft non-lint cloth, any conservation needs met where possible and noted where not, a detailed description of the image is recorded, and they are placed in 4-flap non-acidic enclosures.
The slides are in pretty good shape for being through a devastating earthquake. That said, approximately 400 are missing and we don’t know yet if they were destroyed in the quake or simply loaned out. There are several truly compelling images of the Imperial Valley, and a few surprises like photos of the Taft inauguration procession. We also had a shock when an image of a ceramic pipe that I’d held in my hands only a few days previously surfaced among the slides. The pipe wasn’t marked with an accession number so that slide image saved us one heck of a headache. Scanning the slide collection accession records revealed a description of the pipe – right next to the rabbit sticks, which similarly had a slide image, but had the wrong accession number affixed to the artifact. I feel vindicated in my chosen profession as we are beginning to realize that the secret to this collection inventory lies in the archives.
The grant seminar is in it’s last days and I can now report that we achieved and exceeded our goal of preparing 9 grants. We prepared 11 grants in total and so far submitted 6. The remainder are waiting for just a few more materials to be collected, or can’t be officially submitted until the new year. We had 30 participants in the seminar, several of who assisted with preparing the grant text. These folks compled approximately 25 hours of work outside the seminar. Staff spent 178 hours outside the seminar contacting prospective project partners, arranging letters of commitment and support, editing and writing grant text and preparing the budgets and work plans. These grants lay out our plans for the museum facility and programming, and they are REALLY GOOD ideas.
We are using my last few days to solidify plans for the conservation assessment that I’ll return to complete in January. The first installment of the new lab equipment begins on Monday.