Since its inception in 1936, the Morrison County Historical Society (MCHS) has done a fabulous job of preserving and sharing the rich and exciting history of Morrison County. While continually challenged by a minimal staff and monetary resources, MCHS will undoubtedly continue to build on its firm foundation to improve the quality of the collections that are in its care. As new techniques and discoveries are made, those who work with the collections will need to continue to be open and flexible in order to adapt those changes that are appropriate to caring for Morrison County’s history.
The future in preservation is rapidly changing. New research has resulted in exciting improvements in collections care. Some developments are surprising, such as the use of certain inert plastics for storage containers, while others are basically common sense. For example, at a textile conservation workshop that I attended this past summer, the presenter suggested using bed sheets for packing material. The sheets need to be clean, white or natural, and can be a cotton or polyester/cotton blend (there must be at least 50% cotton). The use of bed sheets has the advantages of low-cost and durability over the traditionally-preferred acid-free tissue paper. Bed sheets can easily be washed and reused as necessary, whereas the more expensive tissue paper eventually needs to be replaced.
As a county historical society, the museum contains some of the most diverse collections that any museum can own. Items in the collections vary from photographs and business papers to household goods and agricultural implements. In order to properly care for the collections, a number of goals have been established that we hope to accomplish in the near future. One goal is to gradually work through the collections and review each item for proper storage and cataloguing. One of the main challenges in working with the collections continues to be how to care for the wide variety of materials that are represented. Ranging from durable plastics and glass to fragile silks and newsprint, each material has its own set of unique requirements for storage and care.
Space has become a critical issue at the museum and will only become more apparent as the collections continue to grow! Another goal concerning the collections is the need to improve the use of the space that is available in the Collections Rooms and the Archives and/or to create new storage space. One possible, though expensive, option would be the acquisition of Spacesaver shelving. Described as a high-density mobile storage system, this type of shelving occupies only half the space required by conventional storage methods. As the shelves are mounted on wheeled carriages that run on tracks, a “moveable” aisle can be created by operating a device at the end of the shelf to which access is needed. By eliminating wasteful aisles, Spacesaver shelves condense storage areas freeing space for other purposes (like more shelves!). The new library on the campus of St. Cloud State University uses this type of shelving throughout the building and has greatly reduced the space needed for shelved materials.
One of the fastest growing areas in the museum profession has been the adaptation of technology to museum work. Most museum professionals now have the added challenge of learning and adapting new developments in technology. An immediate goal at MCHS is the acquisition of a new computer for collections work that will be able to handle the massive amounts of data required for cataloguing the collections. A computerized accessions program, PastPerfect, has already been acquired. One “hi-tech” tool that is currently in use at the museum is a Ricoh RDC-5300 digital camera. Currently used for collections care and preservation, the use of this camera could easily be expanded to such projects as a catalog of museum photographs. The camera can also be used to provide images for a future web site for the museum.
By Ann Marie Johnson
Copyright 2001, Morrison County Historical Society