Although I have been posting about the Museum’s collection for a couple of months now, a lot of people still wonder what exactly it is that a Collections Manager does (I get this from friends and family regularly.) While I have been out in the Museum more lately working with artists on the new alphabet exhibit, truth be told, I am often tucked away in collections storage working behind the scenes. Even my colleagues rarely see me!
So what am I doing back there? Well, that is where things get more complicated. With all of the Museum’s new exhibits, some days I am pulling objects from storage to prepare them for use; other days I am returning objects that have been on exhibit to their normal locations. With all that moving, I am also regularly updating our database so that we can track exactly where those objects should be. Of course, with 50,000 objects, cataloguing is also a big part of the job (or the job of collections interns, I should say). The object catalogue is the best way for us to know more about the artifacts we have in the collection—when they arrived at the museum, how they got here (gift, loan, purchase), what they are made of, and any other information we can find out about them. Collections interns actually add the most new research to our collections database and help us to digitize our records.
Granted, all that information is secondary to the objects themselves. Caring for artifacts, making sure that they are properly protected and stored is a big task. With a variety of objects being moved lately, both into and out of exhibits, cleaning has become more essential. We want to make sure that these objects are in the best condition to go on display and also do our best to better protect them when they are returned to storage. And with all that object handling, we go through a lot of white gloves, so laundry is always on the to-do list.
Here is a recent blog post from Registrar Trek that shares a little more insight on life in collections: http://world.museumsprojekte.de/?p=1251 And, no, you’ll never catch me eating at my desk!