Monthly Archives: August 2014

STASH: A New Tool for Collections Management

The hands-on training and opportunities for networking and discussion that C2C offers in regional workshops are important collections care resources, but more and more collections professionals look to the internet for answers. Our team also strives to act as guides for our NC cultural heritage community in navigating the vast tangle of resources available online. In this vein, we urge you to check out a new website http://stashc.com/. Weeks ago the Connecting to Collections online community hosted a free webinar in which Conservator Rachel Perkins Arenstein introduced this new resource and highlighted some of the storage solutions she considers to be the most practical. You can view the archived version here.

The acronym STASH stands for Storage Techniques for Art, Science, and History. This effort represents collaboration across the disciplines and those of us working in history organizations perhaps have the most to gain/ learn from our colleagues in these other fields. Science museums, especially, have developed storage systems that allow both preservation and access. Researchers analyze collection specimens in those institutions as evidence of ecosystem changes and/ or species-specific evolution. Storage systems must allow close inspection of specimens, while minimizing handling and providing thorough support for artifacts that are often very fragile. Many of these solutions are great examples for cultural heritage collections to emulate.

Of the three types, art museums are often the best funded and individual collection items typically boast a much higher monetary value than do historic artifacts. As a result, these institutions can more often afford professional conservation staff who have set professional standards for all types of museums, especially in climate control, filtering systems, lighting, and exhibition mount-making.

Our favorite examples from the STASH website include a discussion and list of disaster recovery supplies for every institution and a nearly comprehensive list of collections care supplies, along with suggested sources.  Several of the specific storage solutions are low-cost and simple enough to recommend to the cultural heritage institutions we work with. For instance, check out a quick and easy-to-construct tray system made with corrugated polypropylene board here. This system would work well with many types of lightweight artifacts and help maximize shelf or box space.

What storage techniques are successful in your space? STASH also includes an option for submission so you can share your ingenuity to a broad collections care audience. And of course, we’re always happy to provide a smaller-scale forum for your collections care stories here.

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Pre-plan with Firefighters

FireAssocPatchWhen we bought our first house, it was directly across the street from a fire station.  My boys, ages 6 and 10 at the time, thought that the firefighters were the best neighbors we could have had.  Anytime the boys had friends over, it always included a visit to “the fire guys” and a display of lights, hats, sirens and such. Soon my boys knew all of them by name and by shift. Now some people might not like living across from a fire station.  However, it was great fun for us and they were the BEST neighbors. I love to bake and firefighters love to eat, so we had a great symbiotic relationship. We felt safe, secure, appreciated and were entertained by their comings and goings.  And no, they did not use the sirens at night – they were very respectful of the entire neighborhood. We were always impressed with their willingness to help anyone in the neighborhood whenever they could.  Those firefighters helped get cars started, changed tires, put luminaries out at Christmas, opened locked doors, cut trees after a storm, and displayed many other examples of their willingness to help their neighbors.

NC_Certified_Firefighter PathcSo, when I learned from the NC fire fighters we’ve done workshops with about their “pre-plan” program, I guessed the plan would be thorough and reasonable – but I did not expect it to be so incredibly easy. All it takes is one phone call to your nearest fire station (volunteer fire stations included) and they will come to your site and do a “pre-plan.”  The firefighters bring the forms, they fill out the forms, they measure, inspect, add details, and do it all for you.  They make detailed notes of priority artifacts, structure issues, storage placement and fragile items that need to be protected or handled with care.  They are especially interested in historical structures and artifacts.  Firefighters are eager to learn how to respond so that these treasures are preserved for future generations.

Do you have any of the following: antique glass in the front door or windows, stained glass windows, hand carved banisters, cemeteries, cupolas, wrought iron gates, or other special architectural or landscape features? What are the priority artifacts that need rescue in case of fire or flood?   The firefighters will mark and document all of these special areas so that when they arrive on the scene, they can react in the best way possible to save and protect our historical treasures.

One phone call is all it takes. You make the call; they come and do the work. So, how easy is that?  In addition, just for their tireless efforts, bake a cake and give it to them when they finish.

For another opportunity to discuss pre-plans, come to C2C’s next fire recovery workshop in Greensboro, where we’ll hear from battalion chiefs and other departmental leaders.

Lyn Triplett, C2C Disaster Planning Coordinator

 

NC Soda

TP.2010.037.016

TP.2010.037.016

H.1995.131.5

H.1995.131.5

Have you ever wondered why the biggest carbonated beverage companies (Coke and Pepsi) originated in the South (Atlanta and New Bern, respectively)? In the years before air conditioning, the longer and hotter the summer months, the more customers might seek out variety in thirst quenching. Also, suffering through days of high heat and humidity can squelch appetites. Dyspepsia, something we’d call general indigestion today, was a common diagnosis in the 19th century. So it’s no accident that pharmacists, especially in the South, developed appealing concoctions, often with medicinal ingredients, to entice customers. In fact, the name “Pepsi” came from pepsin, a digestive enzyme that was a primary ingredient in the New Bern-originated drink.

What do North Carolinians call carbonated beverages like Pepsi? There’s no consistent answer,  although this study of over 5,000 people found that the majority of North Carolinians ask for “soda,” with the brand name “coke” used generically as a close second, followed by “soft drink.” Pepsi did not start out as a soft drink, since alcohol was another ingredient in its 1893 drug store recipe.

Prohibition, which North Carolina adopted in 1908, forced alcohol out of legally sold carbonated beverages and meanwhile encouraged the development of new varieties. Pepsi became the most internationally renowned soft drink with origins in North Carolina, but several others came along in the early and mid 20th century and garnered loyal consumers—even fans.

S.1991.1.94

S.1991.1.94

Created in 1917 in an empty whisky distillery in Salibury, Cheerwine’s name and redwine color nodded deliberately at the new alcohol restrictions. The Carolina Beverage Corporation, still based in Salisbury, is the oldest soft-drink purveyor continuously in the hands of the same owners—the Ritchie family. Distribution of the drink has expanded greatly over the past several decades, beyond western North Carolina and into 12 states. Cheerwine now boasts something of a cult following.

H.2014.10.8

H.2014.10.8

Similarly named, the Bludwine Bottling Company also began in 1917 as an independent soft drink bottler on Main Street in Gastonia. Decades later, in 1953 the proprietor developed Sun Drop. The brand’s official relationship with NASCAR boosted sales throughout the greater Charlotte region and beyond. The Gaston County Museum showcases more artifacts and details about Sun Drop here.

Does your institution contain soda bottles or related artifacts in its collection?  We have started supplying Cheerwine for our workshops and found it to be the most popular canned drink among C2C participants. What brands are most popular with your community?

 

Board Joinery

Like any good woodworking joint, such as dovetail, mortise and tenon, or tongue and groove (above), non-profit boards need to secure disparate members into a unified whole that can offer strong support for an organization or institution.  William F. Meehan III and Kim Jonker of the Stanford Social Innovation Review assert that the vast majority of non-profit boards are ineffective and have explored the characteristics of the relatively few successful boards. Here are a few of the most important suggestions from their study.

  • Board members and executive directors need a common understanding of the organization’s mission and vision and their respective roles and responsibilities.
  • Board leaders should conduct annual face-to-face evaluations of each member. In addition to performance strengths and weaknesses, these conversations should address contingencies in case of personal emergencies. The evaluation process should correspond to term limits and help the member regularly assess whether additional terms would lead to worthwhile contributions. Board members should also conduct annual evaluations of the organization’s executive director. In one example of a strong board, the director even included 10 staff members he supervised in the evaluation of his own performance.
  • Some diversity in the composition of board membership is important for success. Not all members need to be wealthy, even though fundraising is often the board’s primary activity. Individuals with professional expertise related to board or institutional functions can be important additions. Boards should also include members of the community that the organization seeks to serve.

What has worked in your institution to improve your board’s engagement and effectiveness?