Perhaps not the first thing to come to mind in working with delicate artifacts, but as we move forward with rehousing our Oceanic collection, the power is proving invaluable.
DMNS received funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to rehouse, catalog, and move our Oceanic ethnology collection: artifacts from Australia, Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. As part of the grant, collections staff and volunteers are creating custom archival boxes for the artifacts to help protect them during handling and in storage. To reduce the use of adhesives, the boxes are held together using polyethylene rivets and posts most efficiently assembled using handheld power tools. Even with the efficiency of power, it takes approximately one hour to make a custom storage mount for a single artifact. We needed help!
Sixteen new volunteers have joined the Department of Anthropology this year to assist with the project. So far they have rehoused objects such as Australian bark paintings, boomerangs, and a kangaroo tooth necklace. Two new interns are assisting in cataloguing the objects using online and traditional library resources, along with irreplaceable archival records kept by the museum as objects were acquired. Most recently, staff has been consulting with anthropologists and museum colleagues in Australia to help us gain a better understanding of the artifacts in our collection and the people and culture groups that created them.
Rehousing projects such as this one in the Department were on hold in recent years, due to a lack of space in both existing storage areas and processing areas. The 2014 completion of the Dr. Jane Day Anthropology Workshop now provides ample room for staff and volunteers to work on large grant projects. IMLS grant funds purchased new, custom designed storage cabinets and mobile carriages, designed to protect and maximize storage space for the entire Anthropology collection.
In just two weeks of training our new volunteers, we have rehoused, cataloged, and photographed 40 objects from the Oceanic collection…only 650 left to go!
You can find information on currently available volunteer opportunities in Anthropology and other Museum departments here.