New Grant Addresses Museum Inventorying NeedsJanuary 29, 2018
Because museums both display and collect items, the task of keeping track of inventory can be an ongoing challenge. When it comes to inventorying the extensive merged collections of artifacts assembled for the Col. James B. Ladd Museum and Charles W. Nelson Library, the intensely detailed work has proven very time consuming. In the fall of 2017, our part-time student intern started to record details about some of our collection, but much work still remains.
Fortunately, the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program recently awarded the Minnesota Masonic Historical Society with a $70,000 grant to support our inventorying needs. Made possible through the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the grant allows the Historical Society to hire two full-time collections assistants for the next year. Theresa Norman, the Museum Curator, applied for the grant through the Minnesota Historical Society.
Why Inventorying is Key
Conducting an inventory is a key function of museum work since it allows museums to both identify what items they own and where those items can be found—either on display or in storage. With this information, museums are better able to address outside queries, plan exhibits and support education and outreach.
At the same time, inventory work gives museums a chance to improve other factors that affect the collection. It is an opportune time to improve collections storage materials, enhance the overall preservation process, and pare down the collection by identifying items that do not meet the organization’s mission.
The Task at Hand
During the first phase of this grant, our new collections assistants will inventory part of our collection. Theresa will then reapply for phase two funding in 2019 to complete the rest of the inventory.
Once they are trained in, our new collections assistants will enter data about each collection item into PastPerfect. The program allows assistants to record each object’s:
- Date of acquisition and entry
- Descriptive characteristics
- Current location
- Photographic image
The grant will also allow us to purchase PastPerfect Online—a web publishing tool through which we can share our collection online. The online feature will be implemented in May and made available to the public in early fall 2018.
Once the collection is online, anyone can search the Masonic Heritage Center’s objects, photos and archival records night or day. For example, someone who thinks their family has a connection to Minnesota Masons can search for items associated with the family name. Someone who is curious about Masonic Temples or Lodges in the state, can search using a place name.
Truly, this is a very exciting development for our Museum and Library. We are delighted to be able to complete a thorough inventory of our collection, and make the collection accessible online. We are so grateful to the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program!