2020/2021 Collections Project
5/18/2021 –The end of April marked the official wrap up of the National Buffalo Museum’s collections inventory project, funded by the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the North Dakota Legislature. The funding provided by a Cultural Heritage Grant allowed us to hire a full time Collections Assistant, Julie Hale, who talked the daunting task of inventorying the objects in the museum’s care, determining ownership information, and resolving ownership issues. In addition, Julie was able to do basic cataloging, reorganize the museum’s collections storage area and rehouse objects.
This puts the museum in a great place to strategically grow the collection moving forward, and to develop exhibits and programs knowing what collections are available to work with. This is also a benchmark that allows the museum to continue with the Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (STEPS), an initiative of the American Association of State and Local History, which helps small museums move towards higher levels of professional practice.
4/1/2021 – We are into the final quarter of the grant-funded portion of our collections inventory project. Thanks to funding from the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the North Dakota legislature, the National Buffalo Museum has been able to rectify collections records, resolve ownership status and issues, return property to its rightful owners, and go through the legal process to convert abandoned property to museum ownership.
Simultaneously, the museum has been able to officially add items from past donations to its permanent collection by accessioning them. Accession is the term which covers the tasks of cataloging and documenting museum collection items. This includes assigning a permanent catalog number, marking the object with that number, creating a database record with known information, creating and filing paper records, storing the object appropriately, and recording its storage location.
Following the Collections Management Policy the museum adopted in 2017, museum staff brings proposed objects to the Visitor Experience and Collections Committee (VECC). These objects have been vetted by museum collections staff, who have recorded known information about the objects, and provided justification for how the object helps the museum achieve its mission: to advocate for the restoration of the North American bison through education and outreach. If the VECC committee agrees with staff’s recommendation to add the item to the permanent collection, those recommendations are brought to the museum’s board of directors on a quarterly basis. If the board of directors also approves the objects, they are formally accessioned into the museum’s collection.
Though the National Buffalo Museum is still in the early stages of fully cataloging its collection, the collections inventory project funded by the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the North Dakota legislature have laid the groundwork for the continued growth of the collection with mission-appropriate objects, and increasingly better management and documentation of the collection.
11/17/2020 – Julie and Curator Rachel Johnson have been working steadily to identify and document the objects housed at the museum. The most important element of this project is to ensure we have identified which objects in our care we hold legal title. We have finished with this part of the project, which is an exciting step.
In the next phase of the project, we get to be detectives, looking for clues connected to those objects whose ownership or origin is still a mystery to us. We look for those clues near where the object has been stored, talk to past staff and volunteers and follow the leads that are revealed. We will probably arrive at many dead ends, but the information we do find makes the detective work worthwhile.
You might be able to help solve one of these mysteries. If you or a family member donated or loaned material to the museum in the past, whether it was a piece of artwork or a box of bison bones, please contact Rachel at email@example.com, and help us with our detective work!
5/20/2020 – We’re so excited to have Julie Hale join our team to work on the collections project! She’s in her second week here. She’s working with the museum collection under the Cultural Heritage Grant we were awarded by the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the North Dakota Legislature.
Julie Hale is originally from Ohio and has lived most of her life in the southwest region of the state. She received her Master’s degree in Public History from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Previously, she was employed as the Historic Sites Intern with the Macon County Conservation District in Decatur, Illinois, giving tours of an 1850s homestead and presenting history and natural history programs to the public. Before that, she worked for the Dayton Society of Natural History in Dayton, Ohio. As Collections Technician, she helped with the management and preservation of the Natural History collections.
We’re thrilled to have her bring her experience to the National Buffalo Museum, and look forward to sharing more about the work she’s doing!
March, 2020 – In February 2020, the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) awarded the National Buffalo Museum with a grant to hire a museum collections professional for a one year contract. We will be matching the amount of the grant award with staff and volunteer time, facility improvements and the purchase of necessary supplies. The goal of the project is identification and organization of the objects in the Museum’s care. This is an exciting step for the Museum. Over the past two years, progress has been made to improve documentation and care of the collection, but the new staff person will be able to focus exclusively on cataloging objects in the Museum’s care.
After receiving notice of the grant award, the Museum immediately began a national search to fill the contract position. The Museum offered the position to a highly qualified candidate, and even in the midst of a global pandemic and restrictions, we are carefully moving forward with the hire and the project.
The Museum is very grateful to the SHSND and the North Dakota legislature for the grant award, and excited to proceed with this project which will help us continue to fulfill our mission and bring us into best professional museum practices.
Please check back with us for project updates! We’re excited to share our progress.