Moderator: Meg Klinkow, Archivist, Kenamore & Klinkow
Sponsor: Museum Division
Session moderator Meg Klinkow welcomed attendees and introduced the
panelists. Meg stated that the panel consisted of a variety of professionals
who offer an assortment of advice. She then noted that it was important
for a museum library to demystify archiving and understand its underlying
purpose. With that in mind, she introduced the first panelist.
Panelist 1: Jane Kenamore, CA, MA, Kenamore and Klinkow
Jane Kenamore began her presentation by posing the question "Why start an archive?" In response, she listed three fundamental reasons: to provide legal support for document policies; provide administrative support as a means of recording administrative changes, activities or events; and furnish historical research support for the institution, the community, and surrounding regions.
Jane outlined and discussed briefly the elements of starting or maintaining an archive. Foremost, planning the facilities should be done by experienced archivists, as they will know about the proper temperature and humidity controls to use and the best design for storage, workspace and materials. An archivist also will be better able to appraise the materials in the collection. When managing the records it is important to make a plan, review the material, and then divide it into legal and historical documents. It is also important to keep in mind that processing documents is a time-consuming process. It requires several steps, including arrangement, description and preservation, and averages about one day per linear foot.
Establishing both a collection and a reference policy is also vital. It allows the archivist to be proactive and in better control of the materials. Jane stated that the collection policy, among other things, could provide ethical bounds, ease the relationship with a donor, and give an archivist a basis for deaccessioning. The reference policy, which addresses access to, and use of the collection, should include a statement of general services and a written policy on how and if collections should circulate.
Finally, with regard to funding an archive, Jane named a variety of
foundations to apply for grants, such as National Endowment for the Humanities,
National Endowment for the Arts, and the Canadian Council of Archives.
Throughout her presentation, Jane referred the audience to a bibliography
that accompanied her presentation, which she made available to the audience.
Panelist 2. Elizabeth Johnson, Curator of Ethnology, Museum and Anthropology, University of British Columbia
To begin, Elizabeth Johnson commented that her presentation was a case study of what Jane had just outlined. She manages and supervises the museum's archival collection. Their museum does not have a full-time archivist, so much of the work is done by University of British Columbia graduate students enrolled in the Archivist program. At first, they had no dedicated space for archives. Now they have one small room that serves as a combined reading room and storage area. While it is possible for the University of British Columbia to maintain and store the museum's archives, it is important that the museum have easy access to the records, since many records have direct links to artifact collections. They relied heavily on continuing education, Archives Association of British Columbia, and the advice and support of the University of British Columbia Archives Department for their training.
In answer to the ongoing question of how to get good help, Elizabeth noted that grant funding enabled her to hire skilled staff, and that the UBC School of Library and Information Science graduate students provided them with excellent assistance.
Elizabeth also addressed some problems that she has encountered, such
as unclear boundaries between institutional and non-institutional records;
and administrative changes that left archivists wondering how to organize
the material. She noted that developing appropriate guidelines from
the start could help. In conclusion, she commented that a museum
library archive needs to provide reasonable access and maintain overall
control, and that procedures need to be clear, streamlined, and current
with legal and ethical concerns.
Panelist 3. William Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian, The Newark Museum, Newark, N.J.
When he was hired at the Newark Museum in 1996, Will Peniston was charged with two major responsibilities: taking care of a "backlog of close to 8,000 uncataloged monographs, periodicals, annual reports, and exhibition catalogs," and determining how to organize a "growing volume of archival materials." Unfortunately, at the time he had only two volunteers to help with these major tasks. He decided to outsource the cataloging to two companies, and has managed to catalog as many as 4, 000 titles thus far. The archive collection, however, required some planning.
Will briefly described two particular grant-funded projects. The first project involved organizing a collection of photographs, almost fifty percent of which were reproductions of the museum's objects. After obtaining a grant from the New Jersey State Library, Will hired a project coordinator who was able to rehouse the photograph prints and negatives in acid-free folders and envelopes, respectively, and then rearrange the photographs into three separate categories: archival photographs, object photographs, and historical photographs. The second project involved archiving the collection of writings by John Cotton Dana while he was director of the museum. With funding from the New Jersey Historical Commission, Will has been able to catalog the materials, as well as reclassify and preserve some of the materials.
In his concluding remarks, Will reiterated three important elements
that have helped him move toward meeting his goals. Outsourcing "standard
library tasks" proved to be most worthwhile. Second, while it takes time
to train and supervise volunteer staff, their help is indispensable.
Finally, Will stated that he must continually devote time to seeking funding
Panelist 4. Eva Major-Marothy, National Archives of Canada
Eva Major-Marothy's presentation added another dimension to the session. She showed and discussed slides of objects belonging to National Archives of Canada, commenting that when archiving, one "must think outside the boundaries and look at the nature of material heritage in its organic form." After listing other archive collections in Canada that had artifacts, she mentioned that the National Archives of Canada's collection of objects contains the oldest and most extensive collection of prints, paintings, photographs drawings and heraldry items in Canada and it is still active in acquiring visual records. The most recent acquisitions include portraits of historical figures as well as paintings and sketches documenting historical events. Eva pointed out that much of the collection is predicated on subject matter and historical value rather than artistic merit. The National Archives has loaned its objects extensively, and since 1995, images of the art collection have been made available on the Web through the Canadian Heritage Information Network.
In her closing remarks, Eva offered her own bit advice to those who
are starting an artifact collection. Document the donors and their reason
for their collection and consider what you will do with the visual aspects
of items. The archivist is the guardian of history and plays an important
cultural role by preserving historical materials.
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