As museums have evolved, so have their exhibits. We’ve seen displays go from wax model recreations of Neanderthals, miniaturized versions of places, touch and play set ups to interactive digital panels, integrated multi-media, and even augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) set ups that enhance the exhibit experience.
Off-site and remote storage facilities can serve as havens for items that have long-term preservation needs. One of the triggers for moving materials to off-site and remote storage facilities is an increased need for preservation. Items that are fragile, damaged, or need long-term storage in a stable environment may be candidates for transfer to off-site storage facilities.
Storing records, collections, and objects in off-site and remote storage facilities limits access to original materials. Decisions about storage affect how your staff and clientele work and their ability to access information in a timely manner. The best storage solutions minimize disruption of service and frustration.
The Penang House of Music is a gallery and library dedicated to documenting the diversity of the local community’s cultural and musical traditions, including popular music in Penang. It came into being as part of the Penang Musical Heritage Project (PHMP), with the support of the Penang State Government.
The ability to digitize and publish collections online through a collections management system has helped reinvent how museums present their holdings. In the beginning, there was resistance to publishing digital images of collection objects online. This was due to a (now proven false) concern that people would no longer visit the museum if they could view collections online.
Our esteemed guest blogger, Miriam Kahn, has used municipal and county courthouses and record centers to compile legal, real estate and genealogical information for 20 years. She experienced the shift from print to digital, from photocopies to microfilm to digital, and from paper deliverables to digital delivery—and is very familiar with issues surrounding long-term storage of paper, audiovisual, and digital materials. We asked Miriam to bring her years of insight as an information professional and free-lance researcher to a blog series on the merits and challenges of off-site and remote storage.
Although some archivists debate the necessity for item-level access, it is often more challenging to describe images in the aggregate. Collection-level description can be useful for images of the same subject, but problematic for collections with a variety of subjects, as it neither improves retrieval nor limits the handling of the originals. Group arrangement and description are necessary for large collections or when resources are limited.
Traditionally, archivists have dismissed arrangement at the item level as having little utility and being impractical for modern collections. However, archival surveys conducted over the years have found that a significant proportion of archivists have adhered to item-level description—even though it is contrary to the traditional archival practice of collection-level description. The same discrepancy between literature and practice appears to be true for visual collections.
When digitizing collections, archivists should always take legal and ethical rights into consideration and proceed with caution when documenting culturally sensitive content—with sympathy as to the context of how the materials were collected, and consideration in the manner in which such content is presented.
Image: University of Missouri’s Museum of Art and Archaeology
The University of Missouri’s Museum of Art and Archaeology exists to “advance…understanding of artistic and cultural heritage through research, collection and interpretation. [They] further their mission by preserving, enhancing and providing access to the collections for the benefit of present and future generations.” A museum staff of 12 (including part-time and student help) manage a collection of almost 16,000 objects, with a particularly strong antiquities collection.
Formal standards, such as Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), Graphic Materials, and Rules for Archival Description (RAD), have been developed over time for the description of archival materials. While descriptive standards offer consistency, archival repositories employ descriptive systems suited to their holdings, not universal access, and description continues to be idiosyncratic.
Working with collections in a library, archives, or museum (LAM) setting requires knowledgeable professionals. Through a combination of specialized education and experience gained in the field, professionals amass knowledge and skills developed for a very niche area. Most positions found within a LAM will require a high level of education and experience, but not every professional position needed can be funded.