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  • Writer's pictureBecky Fifield

Museum Monday: Developing Staff Resources for Managing Collections

My colleague and friend Rob Waller of Protect Heritage Corp. recently sent me a book he collaborated on in 1996, Developing Staff Resources for Managing Collections. It examines institutional responsibilities to protect its collections through development of staff and how to create staff development plans. I specifically like its approach in analyzing the internal and external clients of institutional collection management staff, the services provided to those clients, and the mapping of priorities. It’s a smart way to think about the maelstrom of small actions collection management staff provide every day toward the preservation and access of collections.

I’m on the verge of leaving for Winterthur Museum for a research fellowship during which I will explore for part of the time, professional development of collections management and care professionals. Many collection managers work in institutions for curators or directors that can’t necessarily advise and mentor how that collection management professional should continue to develop their career. My project is to create a template for mentoring exchange between two or more institutions to provide collection management professionals with exposure to new ideas concerning managing change, fundraising, and new ideas in environmental monitoring, risk assessment, and collection care policy.

I realized that this book was published just before I entered grad school, my most absorbent time for Museum Studies literature, but I had never heard about it until now. Published by the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), it is one of a number of great documents by that organization that encourage collections care planning, rather than a piecemeal and sporadic approach espoused by many museums. Beyond bibliographies scattered on a number of sites, how do we protect access to great efforts in our field over the long term? To say “out-of-print” is no longer acceptable. One great project by SPNHC from 1992, Storage of Natural History Collections: Ideas and Practical Solutions, will soon take on new life as a website called STASH: Storage Techniques for Art, Science, and History collections, a project of SPNHC and the American Institute for Conservation. Stay tuned for this important resource.

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