Ideas on Preserving and Sharing Collections

Uniform worn by Second Lieutenant Myron Aubineau of Flagstaff, Arizona during WWI. Photo courtesy of Sharlot Hall Museum.

Uniform worn by Second Lieutenant Myron Aubineau of Flagstaff, Arizona during WWI. Photo courtesy of Sharlot Hall Museum.

While ALHFAM is not an exhibit-oriented organization, some of its members deal with collections on a daily basis whether it is storage, care, loan or exhibition. Pieces from collections are used as patterns to reproduce that item so that it might, in some sense, provide an “up close and personal” experience for visitors when the original, for whatever reason, is cannot be on exhibit, or perhaps continuously on exhibit.  The sharing of our collections with the public, which is one of the reasons we have them, then becomes a check list of things that have to be answered before any action can be taken.

In a semi-recent post, someone shared the following: http://www.museumnext.com/conference/using-electronic-paper-museum-labels/. While it deals with artifact captions in an electronic rather than traditional printed format, it brings up the question of whether an enhanced electronic exhibition of certain artifacts would benefit the public in a static exhibit. This is not to suggest doing away with three- dimensional objects in exhibits but rather give sites the opportunity to have more on exhibit than space would permit if all that was used were the physical artifacts themselves.

As an example, I am currently working on an exhibit on how World War One affected the people of Arizona. We have in the collection three attributed Army pilot’s uniforms as well as other pieces of uniforming and equipment. Space allows only one of these to be on exhibit; however each is interesting in its own right. While there is the option of changing them through the year’s duration of the exhibit, it is not practical from the perspective of staff time.

The thought is to have the other two uniforms digitally photographed from all sides and then use a program to give a rotating view of them so that they can be viewed from the front, back and sides. While this is not the perfect solution from the visitor’s point of view, it would allow them to see pieces of the collection that would not be on exhibition. Another way to do this would be to put the digital images on an inexpensive media player and allow the images to scroll through in a three-dimensional side show.

This is not a revolutionary idea, but does present possibilities for giving access to parts of the collection that would otherwise not be available to the public.

Feel free to share the interesting ways you make your collections available when not on exhibit.

Mick Woodcock

Mick Woodcock is Chief Curator at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Arizona, ALHFAM Western Region Representative, and recipient of ALHFAM’s prestigious Schlebecker Award in 2015.

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