Medium 9781442267879

Collections Vol 9 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 of the journal offers three articles and three reviews across a range of topics. Richard Cox asks us to ponder the future of our documentary heritage, noting that many of the current challenges are extensions of older challenges that we have already faced. Our work in collections of archives and museums is challenging and, perhaps, in a transitional era. Cox argues that the archival impulse is “too much of a basic human need, remembering” (338). Are we in a crisis? Or are we following in the footsteps of others who were faced with a similar overload?

From overload to multiplicity, we move to Nina K. Müller-Schwarze’s article on museums and meaning-making. In her article, Müller-Schwarze questions scholarly narratives focusing on the topic of voodoo, puts these into conversation with local participants in New Orleans, and documents the heteroglossia encountered and generated by the M.A. students she taught at the Southern University at New Orleans.

Hank Zaletel recounts the steps involved in securing funding through a state Department of Transportation in order to identify, preserve, and provide access to historic photo and document collections at Iowa State University/Iowa Department of Transportation. Zaletel demonstrates how Transportation Enhancement Funds through the Transportation Enhancement Program were used to develop this historical archive and digital database.

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Archival Futures The Future of Archives

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Richard J. Cox

Professor, Archival Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Information, 614 LIS Building, 135 N. Bellefield, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; email: rcox@sis.pitt.edu

Abstract We are buried in documents, and more and more of these are digital. Concerns with the durability of digital documentation generate many fears about the future of archives. Despite the threats to this new documentary universe, this essay argues there are many potentia futures for archives. In this transitional era from analog to digital, there is much to give us hope about the future for our documentary heritage. Given that documenting ourselves and our activities are essential aspects of our human nature, we can be sure that we will devise new ways of preserving our sources in a digital world. Archives will not disappear, nor will archivists, but they will be (have to be) different. Many of the current challenges are merely extensions of much older challenges, and history tells us that essential and varied archival materials will be preserved. However bleak they may sometimes see the future, archivists are needed now more than ever to engage with the issues related to an increasingly complicated documentary infrastructure. After all, we are not facing a documentary apocalypse, but just another challenging transitional era. And there are many reasons to be optimistic—generated from educating the next generation of archivists, successes in preserving records supported by a wide variety of technologies, and gaining new public support and understanding even if we need to be cautious as we peer into the future.

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Museums and Meaning-Making Historical Narratives, Baby Dolls, and Teaching Voodoo in New Orleans

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Nina K. Müller-Schwarze

Senior Research Fellow, Southern Food and Beverage Museum, nina@southernfood.org

Abstract Scholarly narratives and local museums often focus on distinguishing geographical origins and interpretations of culture, racialized identifies, resistance, and/or religion for behaviors designated as “voodoo.” When are such practices in everyday New Orleanian life referred to, accepted, and rejected within such interpretations? Museum Studies students in a class taught by the author visited local museum displays about “voodoo” and wrote term papers that comment on these practices within the contexts of their quotidian social groups. The Historic New Orleans Voodoo Museum describes the Mardi Gras character Baby Doll as a “voodoo” practice, and the author reflects upon her long term participation and expression as such a Baby Doll and in Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs. Baby Dolls are united in dance performance, and function as a social group that provides support among emotionally marginalized women. Descriptions of phenomena through external form are contrasted with the meanings attributed by participants.

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Innovative Use of Transportation Enhancement Funds to Develop a Historical Archive and Digital Database

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Hank Zaletel

Retired Transportation Librarian, Iowa State University/Iowa Department of Transportation, 1928 6th St., Nevada, IA 50201; email: Photolibrarian@yahoo.com

Abstract In 2004, concerned employees of the Iowa Department of Transportation, with management approval, formed a committee that sought to identify, preserve, and provide access to the historic photo and document collections at the agency. Utilizing the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP), the committee applied for and received a grant of $50,000. A plan of action was subsequently developed, which included a mission statement and a vision for the future. In 2005, a Request for a Proposal (RFP) to hire an archival consultant was developed and posted. In February of the following year, a consultant was hired. After a site visit, the consultant prepared a report on preliminary findings and a possible plan of action; Phase I of the TEP grant had been completed. During Phase II, amendments to the budget and plan of action were secured; a policy and procedures manual was developed; interns were hired; a climate-controlled, secure archive room was established; and digital image databases were created, thereby fulfilling the implementation requirements of the grant. This paper documents the steps involved in this process and demonstrates how Transportation Enhancement Funds were used to develop a historical archive and digital database.

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A Life in Museums: Managing Your Museum Career

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by Greg Stevens and Wendy Luke, eds. Washington DC: The AAM Press of the American Association of Museums, 2012. 207 pages. ISBN: 978-1-933253-70-1

Anna Heineman, independent scholar anna.m.heineman@gmail.com

The concept behind the book, A Life in Museums: Managing Your Museum Career, is a series of discussions at the AAM Career Café meetings from 2007 to 2011. From these conversations, the editors, Greg Stevens and Wendy Luke, recognized the need to help those in museums outside of the conference halls. As editors, Stevens and Luke compiled an insightful collection of advice geared toward nearly everyone working in museums: fresh graduates, mid-career employees, and senior administrators. The direct, honest, and sometimes harsh opinions from professionals in the field about how to maneuver in museums make this book distinctive.

Museum professionals, curators, directors, teachers, and scholars contributed their individual knowledge for this compendium. Thus, the book takes many perspectives and gives definitive and direct suggestions from people actually working in museums. Each chapter is short; many give sage advice while several others offer real-life stories. Some excerpts recount how authors found museum work, and others suggest steps not to take. The vignettes provide colloquial insight into serious topics. Chapters also often address the reader directly: “Should you take a new position that might not have the same security but can broaden your knowledge and experience?” (1) The use of second-person language turns the book into more “self-help” than “scholarly,” but this is exactly the flavor the authors intended.

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Review Essay: The Participatory Turn

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David B. Wagner, PhD candidate, Public History, University of California, Riverside; email: dwagnOOl@ucr.edu

Edited by Bill Adair; Benjamin Filene; Laura Koloski. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. 2011. 335 pages. ISBN 978-0-983-48030-3

Edited by Christopher A. Lee. Chicago: Society of American Archivists. 2011. 379 pages. ISBN 978-0-838-91155-6

Edited by Kate Theimer. Chicago: Society of American Archivists. 2011. 369 pages. ISBN 978-0-838-91156-3

The last twenty years have seen a revolution in how public history professionals have approached and interacted with the public. The arrival of the World Wide Web in the 1990s forced archivists to become accustomed to the democratization of knowledge. No longer could they expect to maintain authority as gatekeepers: instead, they would have to become facilitators. The internet not only presented enormous opportunities to increase the audience for collections, but also portended formidable anxieties about the loosening of curatorial authority and the meaning and utility of objects.

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Review Essay: The Routledge Research in Museum Studies Series

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Reviewed by Margot Note, Director of Archives and Information Management, World Monuments Fund, 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2412, New York, NY 10118; email: mnote@wmf.org

Tiffany Jenkins. New York; London: Routledge. 2011. 174 pages. ISBN 978-0-415-87960-6

Tiina Roppola. New York; London: Routledge. 2012. 322 pages. ISBN 978-0-415-89184-4

Catharine Coleborne and Dolly MacKinnon, editors. New York; London: Routledge. 2011. 218 pages. ISBN 978-0-415-88092-3

Juliette Fritsch, editor. New York; London: Routledge. 2011. 264 pp. ISBN 978-0-415-88575-1

Laurajane Smith, Geoffrey Cubitt, Ross Wilson, and Kalliopi Fouseki, editors. New York; London: Routledge. 2011. 340 pages. ISBN 978-0-415-88504-1

The first five books of the Routledge Research in Museum Studies series offer a promising start to a needed body of literature. Unfortunately, the series lacks an editor or a statement of purpose, making it difficult to determine the criteria for publication or projected goals of the series beyond the field of museum studies—which ranges from administration, fundraising, collections management and exhibition design to educational programming and curatorship. Thus far, the series concentrates on comprehensive subjects (an edited volume on interpretation and a single authored manuscript on visitor experience) or specific, controversial topics (the material culture of human remains, madness, and enslavement).

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