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Collection Management

by Ginger Lowell

C a t a l o g i n g i s n t t h a t t h e b o r i n g , b e h i n d - t h e - s c e n e s w o r k d o n e b y q u i e t , s h y l a d i e s w h o w e a r t h e i r h a i r i n b u n s ? N o t a n y m o r e c a t a - loging is the very heart of any collection; it is what cre- ates the pathways searchers use to find information, and provides links to other related items that might prove of interest. We have begun cataloging the Historical Soci- ety’s collection of twenty to thirty thousand artifacts, documents and photographs.

When you donate a treasure to the Museum, our Col- lection Management work group will evaluate the item for preservation/conservation needs, create a catalog record, and store the item in conservation-appropriate boxes, sleeves, or files. This process is time-consuming and costly, but it is the only way to preserve, and have access to all the items that are important to Lopez history. Generous gifts from LIHS members, and the Lopez Thrift Shop have enabled the Museum to purchase acid-free storage materi- als, shelving, and provide salary support for a staff person who will be responsible for the collec- tion management tasks described above.

Today, cataloging means creating a digital record that includes many pathways that will allow a searcher to find an item. For example, a visitor looking for pictures of his forebears would enter a family name in the com- puter, and up will pop that name with a list of all the photographs, documents and artifacts associated with it. Or a searcher might want to reconstruct the history of the different schools on the island: by searching under the name of the school, or just under the term ‘schools’, all of the Museum’s holdings about schools or that par- ticular school will pop up. Cataloging, done consistently and with an eye for fine detail (and excellent spelling), determines how easy or difficult–or impossible–it is to find things.

The Historical Society began cataloging photographs in spring this year with a small cadre of trained volun- teers. We are carefully linking to the accessioning and indexing work done by Gertrude Boede prior to 1986. Gertrude devised an ingenious code that organized photographs and slides by subject; then she carefully recorded what she knew and what donors told her about the photo, on index cards. These are invaluable histori- cal records (besides being really interesting reading).

Interesting historical highlights can make for slow cataloging, though; it is estimated it will take between five and ten years just to catalog the items already in the Museum–and donations continue to stream in.

The Museum has applied to the Institute for Museum and Li- brary Service, a federal agency, for a matching grant to provide three years’ of financial support for collec- tion development. Meanwhile, we will keep doing what we can with money from our general fund and our group of dedicated volunteers.

Soon you will be able to find artifacts and information by searching the computer, the same as you do in the library. We aren’t stopping there, though; we are planning a future in which our digital records are mounted on the Internet, accessible to everyone who has an interest in Lopez Island, wherever they may be.

Please call us if you can you identify either of the photos on this page. They are among the many unlabeled photos in our collection.

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