What Happened When I Learned the ABCs...of Collections Management

May 07, 2017 1:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Maybe it’s because I work in museums, but I tend to keep everything. So last summer, when I hired several interns to staff one of our historic sites, I was thankful for my packrat tendencies when I pulled a binder labeled “ABCs of Collections Management” off my shelf at home. The binder, now somewhat worn around the edges, has been a go-to resource for me over the last several years for a variety of collections-related questions, and last year I used it to introduce our interns to collections stewardship.

My ABCs of Collections Management binder—a lifesaver on so many occasions!

I received that well-loved binder in April 2013, when I attended MMA’s ABCs of Collections Management workshop. Back then, I was splitting my time between several different small museums, and I was attracted to the workshop because I wanted to refresh my knowledge on collections best practices to better serve those institutions. The workshop proved to be a very rewarding, intensive experience. Led by seasoned museum professional Nancy Bryk of Eastern Michigan University’s Historic Preservation program, the six-hour day was jam-packed with all the basics of collections care and management—from ethics and best practices, to how to document and label objects, to creating policies to care for and protect your collections.

A view of the Holland Museum’s For the Future Peace: World War II and Holland on the Home Front exhibit, which uses objects from the museum’s collection to share the personal experiences of local residents during the war.

I returned from the workshop feeling confident in my newfound knowledge and much better equipped to address a variety of collections-related issues. In following months, I used what I learned in ABCs of Collections Management to document donations, to help a museum create a collections policy, and to introduce collections best practices to a small museum’s board of directors.

High school students from Ferris State University’s Promesa Summer Success program tour the Holland Museum collections storage facility and learn how the museum cares for the community’s history.

Now fast forward four years, to my current role at the Holland Museum. We are a small but mighty staff, and our collection houses over 30,000 artifacts--many with incredible stories. My job leading the education department (which encompasses programs, school experiences, community outreach, and exhibits) often overlaps with other departments, including collections. I’ve found that I am still utilizing what I learned in ABCs of Collections Management, and I’m thankful for the experience every time I find myself processing object loans, filling out condition reports, documenting new additions to the education collection, and handling objects as we create displays and exhibits.

I would definitely recommend ABCs of Collections Management to anyone, whether they’re a student, a volunteer at a small local history museum, or even a mid-career museum professional hoping for a worthwhile refresher. If you’re reading this and wondering if taking time out of your weekend is worth it, stop wondering! Go ahead and sign up. Four years later, I’m still glad I did.

Connie Locker

Education & Outreach Manager

Holland Museum

You can sign up for the June 11 ABCs of Collections Management Workshop right here!

 The Michigan Museums Association is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Michigan Museums Association       313-334-7643       PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721      lcbrisson@michiganmuseums.org

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