Curation and Collection Management

CurationCollections management is a broad concept that includes the selection, care, and property management of a historical artifact collection. First, potential artifacts are analyzed against the scope of the overall collection. Did this object come from the same building, city, or site as the other artifacts? Was it developed and used at the right point in history? This will ensure that the overall collection tells a meaningful story about the place, time, and subjects desired.

Once an object enters the collection, it should receive a level of care that will safeguard it for future generations. Collections staff carefully monitor and control the physical environment; even the shelving and storage materials surrounding the artifact are physically safe and chemically inert. Handling should be careful and limited. Some items may require delicate cleaning or conservation, a type of repair work that restores artifacts to a stable condition without altering them too much.

Collected artifacts are carefully numbered, described, and located in a catalogue entry. The items are also photographed. These methods allow historical objects to be stored in a collection but also found and used easily.

All this ensures that historical artifacts are available to educate and excite us now and for years to come. By carefully building and monitoring a collection of related objects, collections staff are building physical evidence of history, proving that the amazing, absurd, and even the mundane really happened. Patterns develop as a variety of tools, a group of documents, or a selection of paintings are compared and contrasted. This is the stuff of history, and by managing it, items are available for new books and documentaries or for new museum exhibits hundreds of years into the future.

New South Associates’ experience in collections management and curation includes the development of a Cold War artifact collection and facility at the Savannah River Site, assistance to the Egyptian Inspectorate of Antiquities in the Northern Sinai Peninsula in the development of a curation procedures and databases for materials collected from the El Salaam Canal, and management of the Augusta Veterans Curation Program Laboratory.

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