Resources for small museums and historic sites
Museum Studies Program director Katherine C. Grier developed the Collections SWAT Team community service project in response to a 2009 Connecting to Collections planning grant obtained by the Delaware State Library. Research done as part of this grant determined that 80 percent of the state’s collections were not inventoried, making appropriate disaster planning almost impossible. Almost all of the organizations surveyed had either an all-volunteer staff or a small paid staff of one or two individuals. They needed help in inventorying, cataloging, rehousing and other collection management activities.
The Museum Studies Program had already identified the importance of more hands-on experience for its students, with a particular emphasis on work with collections. The needs of both parties dovetailed, and in 2010, Dr. Grier led the first SWAT Team, a small group of six students who worked with a local history collection at the Corbit-Calloway Library in Kent County, DE. This first effort provided proof of the validity of the concept.
Students vet a number of institutions in the fall, taking pictures of and notes about each one’s collection and needs. They bring their findings to the group, and a single location is selected. The next few months involve narrowing down the tasks that the SWAT Team will work on. When the students arrive in January, they set to work for two weeks, moving efficiently and gaining experience with every task. When their work is finished, students follow up on these activities with a report outlining their work and providing recommendations for future collection management activities.
Nominate your small museum or historical society as a potential site for the SWAT team! Applications for the 2016 SWAT Team will posted in October 2015, decisions will be made after that. SWAT 2016 will be held January 10 – 13 and January 17 – 20, 2016. More information about the nomination and application process will be posted closer to Fall 2015.
SWAT 2015 at Milton Historical Society of Milton, DE was a great success! Official statistics will be released soon, but students catalogued, rehoused, and entered into PastPerfect over 600 objects. Students also cleaned their extensive uniform and hat collection, built archival boxes for fragile account books, and reorganized their storage space so more storage and work space became available.
Our 2014 Collections SWAT Team completed their two-week project at the Upper Bay Museum in North East, Maryland. You can read about the accomplishments of our SWAT Team in these feature articles by UDaily and the Cecil Whig! You can also check out the Museum Studies at the University of Delaware Facebook page for photos of the team in action!
In January 2013, our fourth annual SWAT team went to the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society in Vineland, NJ. The oldest local historical society in the state of NJ (founded 1864), Vineland has been housing thousands of objects in its purpose-built building for almost 100 years, and it was our mission to help them sort through some of it. Here are some impressive accomplishments from our Vineland project:
1) 4,600 books inventoried and evaluated for suitability in the collection
2) an estimated 550 artifacts cataloged, marked and photographed
3) 275 collections records entered in to the VHAS database
4) 300-plus items of historic clothing vacuumed and rehoused
5) a historic button collection estimated at around 3,000 items cleaned and rehoused
6) a curatorial workroom created out of a storeroom
7) a pest monitoring system introduced that follows the protocols of Integrated Pest Management
8) a late nineteenth century manuscript of a science-fiction novel written by the founder of Vineland scanned and transcribed. The society hopes to use this for a future project.
In January 2012, a group of UD students volunteered at the Auburn Heights Preserve State Park and the Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights Preserve as part of the SWAT Team project. The students worked with collections owned by the State of Delaware (encompassing the historic house museum and its contents) and the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve (19 Steamer autos, a steam railway, and associated collections). The students got hands-on experience with antique household furnishings, a collection of model trains, the Steamer cars, and historic photographs and trade catalogs associated with the Steamers.
This was the first SWAT project sponsored by the IMLS 21st Century Museum Professionals’ Program. SWAT’s visit to the Laurel Historical Society took place in January 2011.