Preservation and the Role of InternsDecember 5, 2017
Cataloguing and preservation are two common tasks integral to museum life. As new items are collected or donated, museums make records of the items and provide for their safe storage or display. This fall, an intern from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities helped to organize a collection of items from the former Masonic Temple in Virginia, Minnesota. The Virginia Temple was once home to Lodge 264 and OES Chapter 210.
We were fortunate that Hayley Severson agreed to be our Collections Intern. She is a history and political science double major, and as she wrote in her internship scholarship essay, “Understanding [historical] significance is crucial for a student of history and observer of time, but understanding is especially significant when preserving facts and stories is your vocation.”
Hayley was excited to get some hands-on experience with history. She enjoyed learning about the Masonic teachings and individual Masters and Matrons, as well as the Order of the Eastern Star. Realities of historical preservation work proved to be equally fascinating. “I have done so much reading about history,” she says, “it’s really nice to bring history out of the abstract and do work that has a practical application.”
The Technical Work
As Hayley learned, there many ways in which historic artifacts can degrade and even disintegrate. For instance, in the photos on which she worked, light, moisture, and excessive handling can all cause photos to age prematurely. Light fades photos, and moisture breaks down the very structure of a photo. Part of her task was to put the photos into protective sleeves and then special containers after she entered data about them (and captured a duplicate image).
“In the organization and storing of collections,” Hayley explained in her scholarship paper, “I expect to learn the intricacies of [preservation] so that they will remain as close to their original condition…as we can achieve.” Hayley was eager to learn about the scientific aspects of preservation that underpin the work.
Creating Context for the Future
One goal of internships is to help the James B. Ladd Museum and Charles W. Nelson Library create a digital archive of its Masonic artifacts. On this project, Hayley used PastPerfect—a software application for digitally archiving collections—to upload and describe photos from the Masonic Temple in Virginia. Eventually, our information will be searchable through the Heritage Center’s website. In time, it will be also shared with other online sites such as the Minnesota Digital Library.
Some photos date back more than 100 years, so in the description section of the data entry, Hayley profiled details about the clothing, hair styles and other unique photo elements. For the black and white or sepia-toned photos, she described the relative shades of clothing and accessories.
“Interns play an instrumental role in helping the Heritage Center achieve its goals of organizing the collection and making it available to the public,” said Theresa Norman, Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center’s Curator and Operations Manager. “Hayley has really excelled as an intern… she willingly jumped in and completed extensive primary and secondary source research.”
We are always looking for enthusiastic interns to help us with our extensive collections! Please contact Theresa Norman at 952-948-6502 or Theresa.firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.