Yesterday I was involved in a Working Bee at History SA’s store at Hindmarsh along with the Community History Unit curators Mandy and Jude as well as the Migration Museum curators Catherine and Vedrana.
It offered a good opportunity to share here some basic collection management issues that might be of help to those working in small community museums.
First up is general housekeeping. It’s so important to keep storage areas clean at all times. As well as being unsightly, dust can do considerable damage to some items in the long term while insects can attract more insects or other pests, some of which literally eat away parts of your collection. Last year we had a carpet beetle infestation so regular vacuuming is a must and a good vacuum cleaner, preferably with a HEPA filter, is an essential piece of equipment for your organisation to own. Ours is a Nilfisk Extreme X250. It’s highly efficient air filter can trap very fine particles like dust mite faeces and pollen which can trigger asthma and allergies.
We set aside a space for a work area – clean tables for examining, cataloguing or numbering objects. We moved museum objects to easily accessible rows and ensured that where necessary, large objects were raised up from the ground. This is important in the event of a flood, for example. Wooden or plastic palettes are useful for achieving this.
And talking of disaster, we made sure our Disaster Bins – wheelie bins are ideal – were stocked up and easily accessible.
Moving large heavy objects can be a problem and shouldn’t be attempted on one’s own. A Working Bee is a good way of coordinating a major move using volunteers. However we also hired a palette jack which was a huge help. It’s easy to operate and fun to learn new skills.
A Working Bee is a good excuse to have a serious look at your store and see what can be rearranged more efficiently and what surplus equipment or display furniture needs to be thrown out, or what supplies need to be bought. Tip number one, be ruthless. And number two, you can never have enough Tyvek!
At the end of the morning we had a clean, tidy store; plus two spare mannequins to give away as well as a great chance to catch up with colleagues over morning tea to exchange news, views and ideas.