Medium 9781442267756

Collections Vol 6 N4

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"Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals" is a multi-disciplinary peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the discussion of all aspects of handling, preserving, researching, and organizing collections. Curators, archivists, collections managers, preparators, registrars, educators, students, and others contribute.

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From the Editor

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This issue is brimming with a range of topics designed to pique your curiosity: a case study of an Historical Administration graduate program geared toward integrating knowledge and skills necessary for future museum and archive professionals; a new digital technology aimed to engage curious visitors to a music collection who wonder how a clavichord sounds; an overview of object theatre and a case study of its use; a case study of an alternative contemporary arts center; and disclosure of the ways in which medical history collections may pose risks to collections and the staff who care for them. To begin, Terry A. Barnhart, Debra A. Reid, and Linda Norbut Suits share their efforts at integrating knowledge and skill while marrying theory and praxis through the courses taught in the Historical Administration program at Eastern Illinois University. Andrew Lamb walks us through the Bate Collection of musical instruments from the mid-baroque to the contemporary era, informing us of an exciting new audio guide technology that enables visitors to listen to the instruments on view. Tisha Carper Long discusses object theatre and explores, as a case study, her execution of an exhibit focused on an antique Irish harp. Using Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as a case study, Karen Walton Morse acknowledges a lack of understanding within the wider community about the role and importance of alternative arts organizations, giving evidence of the importance of documenting and archiving histories. S. Victor Fleischer points out the health and safety hazards of medical history displays like the one pictured on this cover while also identifying the possible harm of amputation kits, sphygmomanometers, transformers, medicine kits and other materials to staff, visitors, the environment and other collection materials.

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Theory and Practice in Applied History: A Collections-Based Curriculum at Eastern Illinois University

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Terry A. Barnhart, Debra A. Reid, and Linda Norbut Suits

Terry A. Barnhart, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920 email: tabarnhart@eiu.edu; Debra A. Reid, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920 email: dareid@eiu.edu; and Linda Norbut Suits, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Springfield, IL 62701 email: linda.norbut.suits@illinois.gov

Abstract The nexus between theory and practice in the training of applied or public historians is hardly a new concern. It informs the curricula at many universities that train graduate students for careers in history museums and historical organizations. Integrating knowledge and skills in the design of a graduate curriculum in public history, however, presents many daunting challenges. Too much theory does not provide students with the hard technical skills needed to meet the practical requirements of the museum and archival professions, while too little theory makes them technicians but not historians. There is no single model or paradigm for mitigating these distinct yet interrelated concerns, but the philosophical and practical considerations that inform the collections-based courses within the Master of Arts in Historical Administration program at Eastern Illinois University provide a viable case study.

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A Sound Sample System: Enhanced Access for the Academic Cognoscenti

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Andrew lamb

Andrew Lamb, Bate Collection, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 1DB ENGLAND; phone: 01865 286261; email: andrew.lamb@music.ox.ac.uk

The Bate Collection is a small museum in the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford. Established in 1970, it comprises nearly 2000 objects, having representative examples of musical instruments from the mid-baroque period up to the modern day. The collection is mostly European instruments of the orchestral type, many of which have been maintained in playing condition for the benefit of students, members of the Faculty and visiting researchers.

The main function of the collection is to provide a primary source of instruments for researchers interested in what has come to be known as Historically Informed Performance. In this, it is acknowledged by musical historians that here and now, in the twenty-first century, it is not possible to experience a completely authentic eighteenth-century musical performance. Far too much has changed over the years and our expectations have become modified by what we now know of musical performance and technique. What we can do, however, is allow researchers access to the instruments of earlier periods. By so doing they can contrast and compare the original instruments with their modern counterparts and make up their own minds regarding their capabilities and limitations. This then will give them an insight into what may have been going on in the minds of past composers and performers. This knowledge can then be fed into modern interpretations of historical music and the modern audience benefits from a relatively honest performance.

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Every Object Tells a Story: Bringing Historical and Cultural Artifacts to Life through Object Theater

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Tisha Carper Long

Tisha Carper Long, Natural Sciences Exhibit Developer, Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak Street, Oakland, CA 94607, 510-238-6641, tishacl@gmail.com

Abstract Historic and cultural museums have experimented with a variety of techniques to overcome the limitations of out-of-context display of their artifacts. Modern technology offers intriguing new possibilities for bridging this gap. One of the richest of these is object theater, which employs audiovisual and multimedia technologies to re-create a contextual reference for museum artifacts. In history or cultural museums, recorded oral histories or narrated source texts such as diaries or letters provide an authentic storyline that reaches visitors through their hearts as well as their minds. It is this storyline, illustrated by artifacts, that provides the intellectual framework for the development of the technological presentation. This article discusses several examples of successful object theater visitor experiences, and explores as a case study the author’s experience at creating an object theater exhibit centered on an antique Irish harp.

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Considering the Alternatives: Documenting Alternative Arts Organizations, Hallwalls, and Beyond

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Karen Walton Morse

Karen Walton Morse, Processing Archivist, Special Collections, State University of New York at Buffalo, kewmorse@gmail.com

Abstract Although alternative arts organizations have been an important part of the development of contemporary art in the United States, they are historically under-documented for a variety of reasons including but not limited to loss of funding, poor record keeping, the oftentimes ephemeral nature of alternative art, and a lack of understanding within the wider community about the role and importance of these organizations. Using Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as a jumpingoff point, this article discusses the importance of documenting and archiving histories of alternative arts organizations locally while offering strategies for doing so.

In 1994 the Poetry Collection at the State University of New York at Buffalo became caretaker of the historical records of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, a local alternative arts organization then celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Founded in 1937, the Poetry Collection acquires materials in all formats to document English-language modern and contemporary poetry as well as local literary culture. Hallwalls was initiated in 1974 as part of the Artists’ Space Movement.1 Still active today Hallwalls supports the creation and presentation of new work in the visual, media, performing, and literary arts. Although Hallwalls is nationally recognized within the arts community, it is virtually unknown to the general public outside of Buffalo.

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What Once Saved Life May Now Take It: Identification, Protection, and Mitigation of Health and Safety Hazards in Medical History Collections

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S. Victor Fleischer

S. Victor Fleischer, M.A., M.L.S.,Associate Professor of Bibliography, University Archivist, and Head of Archival Services, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio. Polsky Building LL10, Akron, Ohio 44325-1702. svfleis@uakron.edu

Abstract Many collecting institutions including museums, historical societies, libraries, and archives house medical history artifacts, which are one of the most precarious categories of hazardous collections. Some medical artifacts are not only a hazard to the health and safety of staff and visitors, but are also harmful to the environment and to other collection materials. This article intends to raise awareness among museum, library, and archives professionals of hazards present in medical history collections. It provides guidance on identification of hazardous materials and the risks associated with them. It also identifies proper protection and mitigation measures to help museum professionals protect themselves and others from these threats in order to prevent accidents and injuries and to safeguard institutions against unnecessary risks and liabilities. Finally, the article presents ways to balance the protection of human life against the preservation of the artifact.

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Notes from the Field

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Pamela White

Pamela White, J.D., Ph.D., Office of the Provost, University of Iowa, 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242 phone: (319) 335-3500; email: pamela-white@uiowa.edu

Editor’s Note: The following is an account by Pam White, then-Interim Director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, of staff and volunteers actively caring for their collections in the summer of 2008, just in advance of the floodwaters that would consume their building and destroy the home for thousands of objects. As Pam recounts, evacuations were already occurring on campus, in city and town alike, and across swaths of land in the Midwest plains. Waters began to rise on June 8 and continued until July 1. While no permanent home has been claimed for the museum, the institution has arranged partnerships, such as that with the nearby Figge Art Museum in Davenport. Stay tuned for further updates.

The call woke me at 5:45 AM. I left the museum at 11 PM the night before with my Weimaraners, Hansel and Gretel, in tow. I felt I could no longer safely handle art or record accession numbers or even form sentences. I was bone-tired — jet lagged from my recent return from Ireland in the wee hours of June 11. It was now June 13 and we were to have at least until 5 PM that day to remove more art from the impending flood. I did not really believe that the museum would flood — we didn’t in 1993 and why was this going to be worse? The news from Cedar Rapids was dire: they were hit by an overnight deluge. I was concerned, but not overly so. Somehow I thought it would be all right in the morning and that I could return home despite my daughter and I being evacuated with the dogs and with suitcases yet unpacked from the trip. I really couldn’t think about my personal life — the museum’s collection consumed my thoughts.

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