Medium 9781442267930

Collections Vol 11 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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Preserving and Accessing the Howard D. Beach Photography Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection

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Cynthia A. Conides

Associate Professor and Director Museum Studies, SUNY Buffalo State, Department of History & Social Studies Education, 1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY; email: conideca@buffalostate.edu

Abstract    In 2011, the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society (now The Buffalo History Museum), acquired a significant but environmentally challenged collection of dry gelatin glass-plate negatives from the former Howard D. Beach Photography Studio, located in downtown Buffalo, NY. Numbering over 57,000 individual plates of varying sizes, the collection comes from the last extant commercial portrait studio that operated during Buffalo’s golden era (1880-1950). In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Beach held an international reputation as a portrait artist and made significant contributions to the field of photography, including the invention of soft-focus portrait lenses that are still in use today. Yet, his work remains relatively unknown. The glass plates were stored in less than ideal conditions for nearly eighty years. The cost and time involved for staffing, cleaning, re-housing, and storing a collection of this size poses a significant challenge to a museum with limited personnel and resources, yet wishing to preserve and present an extensive though significant historical collection relevant to the community and to the institution ’s mission. Presented is a brief history of the studio, and current efforts to salvage this collection. It outlines strategies for preservation and highlights the advantages of collaboration with an institution of higher education in this effort.

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“Our Museum—Another Handsome Contribution”

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A Comparative Case Study of the Charleston Museum during its First Formative 150 Years

Barry L. Stiefel

Assistant Professor, Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC; stiefelb@cofc.edu

Abstract    Founded in 1773 in the South Carolina colony, three years prior to American independence, the Charleston Museum was established as the first museum in what would become the United States. Originally, when first instituted by the Charleston Library Society (as a subscription library in 1748), the intent was to model the Charleston Museum on the British Museum. This paper examines the Charleston Museum’s trajectory as a collecting institution from its origins in cabinets of curiosities held at library and philosophical societies and small colleges of higher education to its independence as an institution and multiple structures (both historic and modern). In addition to examining the aforementioned connection with the British Museum, this paper compares the Charleston Museum with two other early American institutions—the Library Com pany and the Peale Museum—in order to draw out an understanding of the evolution of collections and exhibitions.

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Sovereignty, Repatriation, and the Archival Imagination

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Indigenous Curation and Display Practices

Kimberly Christen Withey

Associate Professor and Director Digital Technology and Culture Program; Director of Digital Projects, Plateau Center, Native American Programs, Washington State University, Pullman, WA; kachristen@wsu.edu

Abstract    Sovereignty is an often invoked, yet notoriously misunderstood and misused term in relation to the political, territorial, cultural and economic needs, aspirations, and goals of Indigenous peoples living in post-colonial settler states. Archives were established as places where official records became anchors for nations in the making as they documented the accepted demise of their first peoples. As a result, the archival imagination is both a process of political work and ideological maneuvering. In the post-colonial imagination, archives have become hotbeds for revising the historical fictions and fantasies that allowed for the erasure and presumed demise of Indigenous peoples. As archives shift to include Indigenous voices, and as Indigenous archives assert their own prominence in the landscape, the archival imagination expands. This article analyzes the emergent archival imagination through the lens of sovereignty, repatriation movements, and digital technologies to expose the place of Indigenous rights, histories, and imaginations in the practical work of archives in post-colonial settler states. Using examples from my own collaborations in the United States and Canada with Indigenous communities and my work as the director of Mukurtu CMS, I examine how multiple stakeholders grapple with and infuse archival practices, tools, and work with the many nuances of sovereignty.

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