Monday, February 16, 2009

Collections Bloggy Blog #1

In the name of making my technology-related duties here at the DPM a priority again, I have decided to write a blog entry every once in a while.  Don't get me wrong, I would love to do nothing but blog and video blog and podcast and FOTM all the doo-da-day, but alas, that is not the reality in which I live.  I love my collections work, too, and that, along with the 800 other hats we all wear around here, has taken over my life.  OK, enough excuses, here is the first installment of Collections Bloggy Blog...

As some of you can probably relate, when we find ourselves moving from one space to a newer, roomier, grander arrangement, the best intentions take over and we vow to never let our new haven look like that bottomless pit we just moved everything out of.  Ha!  Nice one.  That NEVER happens.  The house I moved into a little over a year ago is usually tidy and welcoming, but only in the rooms we have finished.  Oh, there are doors closed all over that house waiting for some unsuspecting person to open them and have piles of unfiled bills, boxes of wrapping paper, and odd furniture pieces leap out.  Well, when we moved the Collections storage rooms and offices from the main Museum building to the Kellum-Rotan building last summer, our intentions were indeed grand.  However, I found myself yesterday (the one day I am here by myself and therefore have lots of look-around-and-contemplate time) in awe of how totally cluttered and hectic my office was.  I am blessed to have a pretty big space available to me to clutter up, but that is just it, the more space you have the more crap gets dumped there.  It is kind of like having a big purse; people always say they don't have a big purse because they could never fill it up.  Well, that is false.  You can ALWAYS fill up a big purse, trust me, I know.  Once I feel like I get a grip on the mess, something else like an exhibit or special event or organizational binge happens and it is all shot.  

That is the situation I found myself in yesterday; looking at the objects from about three exhibits that had not yet been put away.  I try to have a system for everything, and I have to say our system of pulling objects for exhibits is pretty genius.  I have no idea if it has been done before or if there is a better way to do it, but since my fabulous assistant Jen thought it up things have run a lot smoother around here come time for an exhibit to end.  One of the exhibits I was faced with yesterday was installed before this system was implemented, which was one of the main causes of my frustration.  Putting all the stuff away is me least favorite part of the exhibit process anyway, much less when I have no idea where any of it came from.  One of the other exhibits we just did used a good portion of the clocks from our collection, and their boxes have been stacked waist high for about a month now.  Once the exhibit was done and the final touches were made I marked all the boxes and my other assistant, Robin, and I are going to put them back on the shelves today.  

Clock Exhibit boxes about to be put away

Some bottles that still need to be put away

Here is a brief run-down of our system...  There is a box on our supply shelves called the Pulling Objects Box.  Everyone knows where it is and how to use it, and students who come in from the Baylor Museum Studies classes get an orientation on it before they are allowed to do their exhibits.  This proves very helpful in general because I am by far not the only person pulling objects for exhibits; it would be safe to say that almost everyone around here does it at some point.  Inside the POB is a laminated instructions sheet and a list in a mylar sleeve with a column for the name of the exhibit you are pulling for, and a second column for the color post-it that will correspond with that exhibit.  For example, the clock exhibit started out with green post-its then moved on to purple when the green ones ran out.  All the post-its you need are in the box.  When you go to the shelves and decide to use something out of a box, you write the object number on the post-it, stick it to the box, and secure it with a piece of tape for good measure.  You leave the box on the shelf where you found it.  Previously we stored boxes that had things taken out for exhibits in a separate area, but this is a much better use of time and space, I think.  We have used this method with our internal staff as well as student workers and it has worked really well so far.  

A shot of the system in action!

I also found myself playing a game of acid free box tetris yesterday.  Going back to my previous observation about filling up the space you are given, our space has already almost reached its limit.  We are constantly shifting things to make room for new things and making slight adjustments here and there.  Thus is the life of a Collections Manager (CM from now on).  I hope these blog entries, if indeed I can manage to write them on a regular basis, will give non-museum people some insight into our life behind the scenes, and maybe help or entertain (for better or worse) fellow museum people.  Look out for a video blog sometime soon, too!

Acid Free Box Tetris, anyone?

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