Gap Analysis: Barbecue

Collecting plans are important parts of collections policies and can help in prioritizing new acquisitions, as well as targeting deaccessions.  The American Association of Museums has posted a useful article on collections planning on its website.  Authors identified “gap analysis” as one of six characteristics of effective collections planning.  In order to analyze gaps, planners must contrast an institution’s ideal collection with its actual artifact accumulation.  For example, at the National Museum of American History, collection planners developed a central thematic question: “What has it meant to be an American?” as a benchmark to determine the relevancy of possible artifacts.

Here in North Carolina, we can ask similar questions to guide collections planning at the state and local level.  “What has it meant to be a North Carolinian?”  The NC Department of Cultural Resources’ collection should contain artifacts that collectively provide answers.  What topics do you think get at the meaning of being North Carolinian?  Link to the search and try to find relevant artifacts.  Does your search yield a cache or a gap?


Barbecue is one important aspect of culture statewide–something that most North Carolinians have experienced in some way.  It reflects a history of poverty in its use of free range hog and fatback.  The ingredients, smoking techniques, and flavors also distinguish regions. 


Both the State Archives and the NC Museum of History collections contain a variety of barbecue-related photographs.  Yet, the only 3-dimensional artifact that results from a search for “barbeque” or “barbecue” in the NC DCR collections database is a match safe, bearing little connection to local cuisine.

Outside of museum collections, North Carolina barbecue-related artifacts abound.  Wilbur’s, one of the most famous eastern Carolina establishments, has an online catalog, offering several ideas.  However, some well worn cooking implements or other objects could “flesh out” the story of the state’s most famous culinary custom.

Does your institution have a collecting plan?  Does it provide useful guidance?  What are your collection’s major gaps? Does your collection contain any barbeque-related artifacts?

Ten years ago the National Museum of American History made some collections planning progress.  Is it now time for your institution?


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on January 31, 2012, in collections access, collections management and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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