Medium 9781442267893

Collections Vol 10 N2

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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 is what we refer to as an “open issue,” meaning that all articles have undergone peer review and have been brought together between the covers of the journal. The commonality of these contributions is that they deal with collections in some way, whether cultural property, works of art, or library, archive, or museum resources. And, as with every issue of the journal, these essays seek to engage dialogue about collections as related to research, practice, discipline, focus, organizational structure, education, and/or advocacy.

Judy Jungels and T. Rose Holdcraft from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology introduce us to their collaboration with the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, Alaska, which allowed for the study and conservation of several full-sized nineteenth-century skin-covered kayaks and more than 100 Alaska Native ethnographic objects, including Alutiiq kayak models. Heather Fox offers a case study examining the interaction between two university entities (the University of Louisville Art Library and the university’s Archives) and the Speed Art Museum in an effort to streamline the museum’s library. Bridget R. Cooks recounts an acquisition project at Santa Clara University that led to an increase in a university museum’s collection of art by African American women. Each of these aforementioned projects was funded through a grant opportunity—either Save America’s Treasures, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or the James Irvine Foundation. Through each of these case studies, we are reminded of the extent to which our collections depend upon the generosity of private, public, and federal support.

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Study and Treatment of Coastal Alaskan Native Kayak Models

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Judy Jungels

Assistant Conservator, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Ave. Cambridge, MA 02138; email: jjungels@fas.harvard.edu

T. Rose Holdcraft

Conservator, Administrative Head of Conservation, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Ave. Cambridge, MA 02138; email: tholdcr@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract   The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, Alaska, recently collaborated to study and conserve several nineteenth-century full-sized skin-covered kayaks and over one hundred Alaska Native ethnographic objects. This two-year project was partially funded through a Federal Save America’s Treasures grant, and supported in part a public-interactive conservation workspace located in one of the museum’s galleries. The project allowed the rare opportunity to fully study objects from the Alaska Native collections in the Peabody Museum in consultation with Alutiiq colleagues to build knowledge of Alaska Native technologies. Material analysis using X-ray fluorescence (XRF), matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF-MS) and polarized light microscopy contributed to better understanding of the technology of these objects. As part of this project, the museum’s collection of twenty small skin-covered kayak models from various Alaska Native groups were studied and conserved. Historical and technical information on the kayak models was gathered through research into the museum’s archives, discussion with Alaska Native consultants, a review of current literature, and material analysis. This paper discusses the collection and donor history, cultural affiliation, fabrication technology, and preservation of these kayak models.

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The Importance of Being Human: A Case Study of Library, Archives, and Museum Collaboration

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Heather Fox

Archivist for Metadata & Scholarly Communication, University of Louisville, 400 Ekstrom Library, Louisville, Kentucky, 40292; email: heather.fox@louisville.edu

Abstract   Libraries, Archives, and Museums (LAM) convergence has been a topic of discussion for nearly a decade, with a particular focus on harnessing technological know-how to create efficiencies around managing and providing access to collections cared for by these similar yet distinct professions. This case study examines the interaction amongst the University of Louisville (U of L) Art Library, U of L Archives, and the Speed Art Museum (Speed) as the three separate entities worked together to complete an IMLS-funded grant project focused on streamlining the Speed’s library. Although the initial work centered on surveying and weeding the Speed’s collection and creating electronic catalog records of the materials, shifts in the grant budget supported the hiring of a Project Archivist to transfer the Speed’s institutional archives to the University of Louisville. This formal partnership developed from a history of informal collaboration, impelled by exigencies of impending construction to create a new museum space. The project improved access to Speed Library’s collection, enhanced the U of L Art Library’s collection and facilitated preservation of and provided access to the institutional records of the Speed Art Museum. In addition, conversations about LAM convergence tend to emphasize technology. This case study draws on the Collaboration Continuum introduced by Zorich, et al in a 2008 report on the topic and examines the power of interpersonal relationships, which ultimately proved to be the important drivers of this collaboration.

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Permanent Collection: Increasing the Visibility of African American Art in a University Museum

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Bridget R. Cooks

Associate Professor, Program in African American Studies and Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine, 2000 Humanities Gateway, UC Irvine, Irvine, California 92697; email: b.cooks@uci.edu

Abstract   This article presents a case study of how a university museum increased its collection of art by African Americans through a collaboration involving a curator, faculty member, and undergraduate students. The article offers an examination of what students want to see in the permanent collection of their university museum and shares student definitions of African American art. Further, the acquisition project provided insight into the relationship between education in the classroom and the museum, object interpretation, cultural representation, art, and race.

Since the 1960s, American art museums have faced an identity crisis. As the fight for racial and gender equality in America’s civic life has increased, the demand for multicultural recognition within the nation’s institutions has grown. Museum directors, curators, and educators have been caught between maintaining a traditional, and often culturally exclusive, practice of collecting, preserving, and presenting historically significant objects for the benefit of the public, or, listening to the diverse constituents outside of the museum broadly referred to as “the public” and “the community.” In the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, the museum’s responsibility to engage new audiences became a mandate for funding through public grants and private foundations.

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NOTES FROM THE FIELD

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Barbara Hobot

Independent Scholar; email: barbarahobot@mac.com

To purge the earth of garbage would be to destroy our own reflection.

John Knechtel

“How To Prevent Anything and Everything” is the tagline found on the website howtoprevent.com. Here, web surfers can find preventive solutions for many of life’s cruel tricks: rust, sneezing, foreclosure, global warming, stress, stretch marks, and spam. The lists are surprisingly short, considering the capacity for all things to fall apart, fail, spoil, or die. The website could stand to be more comprehensive during this era in which North Americans seem hell-bent on keeping that new car smell indefinitely. There are, however, many other players in this game of preservation.

Prevention Magazine, an American healthy lifestyle publication, and the Prevention Institute, an American training facility specializing in the prevention of violence and health related issues, exemplify institutional attempts at halting the negative effects of contemporary urban living. The North American concern for public safety is difficult to ignore, as we are incessantly bombarded with warning signs, barricades, orange spray-painted sidewalk fissures, and emergency alarm strips. The long history of insurance policies brings us now to a moment when safeguarding one’s car, house, life, or legs, is a conditioned necessity more than legal requirement.

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NOTES FROM THE FIELD

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Nathan C. Jones

Curator, The General George Patton Museum of Leadership, 356 Fayette Ave., Bldg. 4554, Fort Knox, KY, email: Nathan.c.jones.civ@mail.mil

Abstract    Curators in museums of all sizes are practicing their craft within a paradigm that in many ways seems at odds with the direction the museum field is headed. The future of the curatorial profession requires curators to shed stereotypes and loosen their grips on scholarly authority. This does not imply that curators should relinquish the roles of collecting, researching, and writing to someone who is not a subject matter expert—it simply means that a collaborative approach should be taken when developing collections and exhibitions. Front-end research, focus groups, social media, and interactives are great ways to gather ideas from visitors and can help explain what visitors know, what interests them, and what is relevant. Curators must redefine their function as subject matter experts and how they work on exhibit development teams. Lastly, in order to ensure the future of the profeSSion, training, standards and best practices must change with the evolving nature of the craft.

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