"They are our unsung heroes," says Sandy Arpen when she describes the four women who volunteer their time to identify and record the accessions that come into the Mandarin Museum.
Those women, Pam Neumann, Barb Pucci, Lynn MacEwen and Connie Hendricks spend each Tuesday afternoon in the Museum office and accessions area.
And what exactly do they do?
Every item that has been donated to or obtained by the museum is entered into
a computer software accessions management program called
PastPerfect. Initially and for many years, all accessions had been entered by hand on index cards.
After Sandy started working with accessions, she realized there was a huge backlog of handwritten cards that needed to be entered into the PastPerfect database. She knew that her sister-in-law, Pam Neumann's education, experience and interest in research would be perfect for this project, and recruited her as a volunteer.
A lifelong resident of Mandarin, Pam spent some years as a public school librarian before she became a medical librarian at the University of Florida Health Science Center/Jacksonville. She retired in 2006 as an Associate University Librarian Emerita.
Pam says, "Soon after I had started this project, Lynn MacEwen joined me and together
we were finally able to get everything entered into PastPerfect. Once this was accomplished, I printed out an inventory of our items and Pooch (Barb Pucci) began her physical inventory of the collection.
Lynn MacEwen says "I love Mandarin and I love history. As a retiree, I wanted to keep up with my people and computer skills. So our museum offered a perfect combination of things to interest me and to keep me in touch."
She retired from a software development and training company in 2010. For the last 15 years of her career, she was the Senior Sales Manager selling booth space, sponsorships, and advertising to vendors who attended the company's training and development conferences at various locations nationwide. In addition to working on the accessions project, Lynn volunteers as a docent at the Museum. .
Using PastPerfect is interesting and challenging. It is surprisingly difficult to name ordinary items, when you must be accurate and meticulous as required by PastPerfect. Lynn and Pam recounted a time when printing out the inventory, they discovered a database entry for a piece of "gingerbread" which was categorized as a "food fragment." They decided that it was more likely a piece of decorative house trim called "gingerbread," thus they changed the item category to "building material." However, the item hasn't yet been found in inventory to definitively learn its true use....so perhaps we do somewhere have the remains of some long-ago meal!
Barb Pucci (or Pooch as she is known) moved to this area about 40 years ago from Pennsylvania. She spent 30 years in the mortgage servicing and servicing-related industries before she retired. "I have always been a detail-oriented and project-specific person," she said.
"When I knew Sandy needed the accessions inventoried, I thought it was a perfect fit."
Over the last 4-1/2 years Pooch has endeavored to match each item in the farmhouse, barn, winery, schoolhouse and museum with its corresponding entry in PastPerfect. She is currently working on the Store and Post Office inventory.
Pooch's "partner in crime" for this project is our newest volunteer, Connie Hendricks.
Raised in a small midwestern town, Connie has been a resident of Mandarin since the early 1970s. Her career was in the airline and insurance industries.
"Sandy was the leader of my daughter's Girl Scout troop. After I retired, I saw a newspaper article about the Museum and its need for volunteers. I recognized Sandy's name and photo and contacted her," says Connie.
"I'm more of a behind-the-scenes person, so I was thrilled when Sandy suggested I might enjoy working with accessions. She was right."
The inventory process is meticulous. Pooch and Connie look at each item in a building and find the PastPerfect number if it is marked. Then they measure the item, photograph it, and update the description on the printed inventory sheet, which is returned to Pam and Lynn to enter into PastPerfect. After all the numbered items have been matched up, then t
hey'll have the task of researching those unnumbered items in order to complete the project.
Because so much effort is put into the inventory process, Pooch has a request of our volunteers. "If you move something, please, please make a note and leave it in the museum office so that we can correct the item location."
We really appreciate the countless hours these women give to the museum. As Sandy says, "they are our unsung heroes."