Collection Inventories

Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.

In This Issue

Collection Inventories
Instructor Spotlight
Featured Course
November Online Courses
January 2017 Online Courses
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Collection Inventories
By Peggy Schaller
 
Why are periodic inventories important?
There are two main reasons for doing periodic inventories. No, it is not just to make you do more work! Inventories are an important function of museum collections management. The main reason is to keep track of your collections. You cannot display or otherwise utilize what you cannot find. If you cannot find it, you have not lived up to your public trust responsibilities regarding your collection and the object might just as well be gone. And how do you know it is not gone? Maybe there has been a theft of which you are not aware?
 
Secondly, periodic inventories allow you to monitor the condition of the objects. Doing an inventory forces you to look at each individual artifact as you are verifying that it is where it is supposed to be. This is the perfect opportunity to make an examination of the current condition of your objects. If that small crack you noticed last time has gotten bigger, maybe the environmental controls need to be checked. If there is evidence of insects where there was none before, maybe you have an infestation that needs to be dealt with. Many small or large changes can be caught by regular examination of your collection.
 
Who will do the Inventory?
Only those persons authorized to be in the collection areas should be in charge of doing a Collection Inventory. All helpers during this process must be trusted Collection Staff, another staff member or background checked volunteers. All volunteers must be paired with a staff member and should never be allowed to work in the collection unaccompanied.
 
Collection Inventories, at their most efficient, are done with teams of two--one person to handle and describe, the other to record the information on the Inventory sheet. One member of this team should be a collection staff member, the other may be a volunteer or other staff member.
 
Before beginning an inventory, each person involved should go through a short training session on proper handling of collections and how to describe artifacts. Remember, the descriptions required during an inventory are NOT cataloging descriptions, but short, concise descriptions that will allow you to tell one artifact from others of a similar nature.
 
So how do you go about doing an inventory?
To avoid having your inventory turn into an exercise in frustration, you must have a systematic plan. Do not hop from one shelf to another, or one room to another, you will tend to forget where you have been and will surely miss something. Do one room or section of the museum at a time. Choose a starting point within that room or section and proceed in a logical manner one shelf or case at a time. Always finish each section/shelf/cabinet/drawer before moving on to the next.
 
To learn more join Peggy Schaller in MS218: Collections Inventories starting November 7, 2016.
 
Peggy Schaller, founded Collections Research for Museums in 1991 to provide cataloging, collection-management training and services. She has worked with a large variety of museums and collections for more than 20 years. Peggy, who lives in Denver, Colorado, has a bachelor's degree in anthropology with minors in art history and geology from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has a master's degree in anthropology with a minor in museum studies from the University of Colorado in Boulder and is a Certified Institutional Protection Manager II. For more information visit her web site  Collections Research for Museums. Peggy is also the Publications Manager, Certificate Program Coordinator, and Course Monitor for Northern States Conservation Center and museumclasses.org.
Instructor Spotlight: Ann Coppinger

Ann Coppinger runs the conservation department and teaches conservation at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She has a master's in museum studies specializing in costume and textile conservation from FIT. She is a former NEA master apprentice at the Textile Conservation Workshop. Ms. Coppinger previously worked for 22 years in fashion in New York City. She has degrees in both fashion design and pattern making from FIT.
Ann Coppinger teaches our MS212 Care of Textiles course beginning November 7, 2012.   Join her for a fascinating and informative look at textiles!
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
 
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from museumclasses.org 30 days prior to the start of that course.  
 
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
 
For our course list or to sign up: http://www.collectioncare.org/course-list  
 
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at collectioncare.org

The Early Bird Discount deadline for January 2017 courses is December 2, 2016. 
Featured Course: Preservation Environments

Preservation Environments is essential knowledge for any collecting institution. Everyone should understand how humidity and temperature are controlled by a building and its mechanical system. For museum staff considering a new building - and any institution planning to expand or rebuild an existing one - Preservation Environments provides important information for calculating whether the proposed improvements will actually improve the environmental control of your protective enclosure. Participants learn the advantages and disadvantages of numerous methods of temperature and humidity control.

Join Ernest Conrad for this interesting and very informative course MS211 Preservation Environments beginning November 7, 2016. 
November 2016 Courses
 
November 7 to 11, 2016
Instructor:  Terri Schindel
Description:
Disaster planning is overwhelming. Where do you start? Talk to Terri about how to get going. Use her checklist to determine your level of preparedness. What do you already have in place? Are you somewhat prepared? What can you do next? Help clarify your current state of readiness and develop future steps to improve it.
 
November 7 to 11, 2016
Instructor:  Peggy Schaller
Description:
The heart of every museum is its collection. A mission statement is critical to preserving that collection. Participants in The Mission Statement will discuss their mission statements and whether they really make a difference. Peggy has seen and heard it all as a consultant to small and large museums. She will help you figure out ways to make your mission statement work for you.
 
November 7 to December 16, 2016
Instructor:  Ernest Conrad
Description:
The museum's brick exterior wall is crumbling. The powder coated metal storage shelves have active rust under the foam padding. Objects in fur storage are covered in mold. It is raining in the exhibit hall. This is the damage that occurs to museum buildings or collection when staff do not understand preservation environments. Preservation Environments is essential knowledge for any collecting institution. Everyone should understand how humidity and temperature are controlled by a building and its mechanical system. For museum staff considering a new building - and any institution planning to expand or rebuild an existing one - Preservation Environments provides important information for calculating whether the proposed improvements will actually improve the environmental control of your protective enclosure. Participants learn the advantages and disadvantages of numerous methods of temperature and humidity control. Preservation Environments does not try to turn museum professionals into engineers. Rather, it arms them with the knowledge they need to work with engineers and maintenance professionals. And helps explain why damaged occurred and how to keep it from happening again.
 
November 7 to December 5, 2016
Instructor:  Ann Coppinger
Description:
Caring for textiles demands an understanding of how and why they deteriorate. This course offers a simplified explanation of the origin and structure of textile fibers as well as the finished textile object; be it either a piece of whole cloth or a finished garment. Care of Textiles teaches students to identify fibers, fabric structures and finishes, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to various fabrics both in storage on exhibit. Topics include preparing textiles for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials with textiles, and three dimensional supports.

MS 218: Collection Inventories
November 7 to December 5, 2016
Instructor:  Peggy Schaller
Description:
Collection inventories are vital to collection management and security. You need to know what is in your collection to be able to manage it well. This means regular inventories must occur. But knowing you must do them and actually having the time and manpower to complete an inventory are two different things. Collection Inventories discusses everything you ever wanted to know about collection inventories. From how to set one up to how to conduct an inventory. Other topics include what to look for during an inventory and how to reconcile the information.

November 7 to December 16, 2016
Instructor: Helen Alten
Description:
Baskets are an important part of nearly every world culture. Caring for baskets requires an understanding of why and how they deteriorate. Care of Baskets provides a simplified explanation of the chemistry and structure of basketry materials. Starting with an overview of the history and function of baskets and how they are made, Care of Baskets will cover guidelines for handling, labeling, exhibiting and storing baskets, including condition assessments and an introduction to integrated pest management. An overview of treatments used on baskets and how appropriate they are for the long-term preservation of the basket will help students make care decisions when consulting with conservators.

November 7 to December 16, 2016
Instructor:  Karin Hostetter
Description:
Volunteers should be considered unpaid staff and, like a staff handbook, a strong volunteer organization should have a volunteer handbook. This course goes beyond understanding various aspects of a volunteer program to putting the volunteer program to paper. Create an outline and some draft text for a handbook providing consistency within the volunteers as well a legal support if ever needed.
 
November 7 to December 5, 2016
Instructor:  Peggy Schaller
Description:
This course will examine the role of ethics in museums and related institutions. Topics addressed will include the differences in ethics, laws, and morals; what ethics are and where they come from; the ethical codes that museum professionals follow; how ethics affect professional practices; why ethics are important; and how ethical standards can help museums and related institutions better serve society. Participants in the course will gain an understanding of the importance of ethics in professional museum practice, how codes of ethics are written and why they are important, and will develop an understanding of the most significant codes of ethics subscribed to by museum professionals.
January 2017 Courses
 
January 2 to January 27, 2017
Instructor: Peggy Schaller
Description:
Collections management is a critical component of running a museum. Most museums have collections and these collections drive the public functions and activities of the institution. Collections management is the physical and intellectual management of these items. In this course we will examine how information is collected and recorded for each object brought into the collection - a process called registration. We will also examine the policies that govern what is brought into the collection, including the most important piece of institutional policy--the museum mission statement. These policies are assembled into the collections management 'bible'--the registration manual. At the end of this course you should have a clear understanding of how and why collections are documented in museums and the governing principles that drive daily museum activities.
 
January 9 to February 3, 2017
Instructor: Helen Alten
Description:
Prior to the invention of plastics, skin materials were the flexible covering used for most objects - from bellows to books, carriages to desktops. Furs and skins are in almost every museum's collection, be it Natural History, History or Art. Caring for leather and skin materials demands an understanding of how and why they deteriorate. Care of Leather and Skin Materials offers a simplified explanation of the origin, chemistry and structure of leathers and skins. Students learn to identify leathers and surface finishes, determine their extent of deterioration, write condition reports, and understand the agents of deterioration that are harmful to leather and skins both in storage and on exhibit. Topics include preparing hide and skin materials for storage and exhibit, the use of archival materials and which ones might harm skin proteins, housekeeping techniques for large objects or books on open display, and three-dimensional supports for leather and skin to keep them from distorting. Integrated pest management and historical treatments will be covered, with a unit on hazardous materials applied to older skins and leather that might prove a danger to staff.
 
January 2 to January 27, 2017
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
Description:
So much to say and so little space in which to say it. That is the dilemma when scripting an exhibition. How do you say what needs to be said in the space available? How do you even figure out how to limit the information in the first place? Discover the value of themes, tangibles, intangibles, and universals in writing exhibit text that visitors really want to read -- and remember. Additional resources provided on font size and colors as well as label layout.
Regional Workshops
Where you can find some of our instructors in 2016:

Stevan P. Layne

  • February 6-7, 2017, Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA

Conferences and Meetings
2016
Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Oklahoma City
October 23-27, 2016

National Association for Interpretation, Corpus Christi, Texas 
November 8-12, 2016
 
New England Museum Association, 2016 Annual Conference, Mystic, CT
November 9-11, 2016

2017 
Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, Rochester, NY
June 9-13, 2017
 
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Denver, CO 
June 18-24, 2017

Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, Eugene, OR
June 22-26, 2017

Society of American Archivists, 2017 Annual Meeting, Portland, OR  
July 23-29, 2017  

American Association for State and Local History, Austin, TX

September 6-9, 2017

Southeastern Museums Conference, 2017 Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA 
September 11-13, 2017 

International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, New Haven, CT
September 17-20, 2017

Western Museums Association, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Dates TBA 
 
New England Museum Association, 2017 Annual Conference, North Falmouth, MA
October 25-27, 2017
 
National Association for Interpretation, Spokane, Washington
November 14-18, 2017

2018
Society of American Archivists, 2018 Annual Meeting, Washington, DC
August 12-18, 2018

Western Museums Association, Tacoma, WA
Dates TBA 
 
Southeastern Museums Conference, 2018 Annual Meeting, Jackson, MS
October 8-10, 2018
 
National Association for Interpretation
Dates and location TBD
November 2018
 
2019  
National Association for Interpretation, Denver, Colorado
November 12-16, 2019


Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to peggy@collectioncare.org .  
 
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 
 
Have a comment or suggestion?   
 
Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at   museumclasses.org in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
 
Sincerely,
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager