I don’t track down delinquent debt, though people have made that assumption many times over the course of my career. In museum-speak, a Collections Manager is the person responsible for taking care of artifacts, art and other objects in a museum, collectively referred to as “the collection.” The National Buffalo Museum has never had a full-time staff position dedicated to keeping track and taking care of the objects in its care, and that work has fallen on other staff, board members and volunteers, which has meant that it mostly hasn’t happened at all, or not happened according to museum best practices, while staff has been consumed with daily operations of running the museum and managing the bison herd.
A little known fact about museum collections is that typically only a small percentage (maybe 2-10%) of a museum’s collection is on exhibit at any given time. The rest are kept in special storage to extend their preservation. Most institutions are holding many items of historic, scientific or cultural value that may not be appropriate or interesting for exhibit for any number of reasons. Those items are held in the public trust for posterity and potential research purposes. Though the NBM’s scope is more specific than that of a historical or natural history museum, we hold items relevant to our mission, and not all of those items can be put on exhibit simultaneously.
It’s important to rotate the objects on exhibit in any institution for several reasons. One reason is that switching out exhibits provides new things for visitors to see, and a reason to make a repeat visit. If you haven’t been to the National Buffalo Museum in a while because you think you know what it looks like, it might be time for a visit to see the changes that have been made in the last few years. The second reason to remove objects from exhibit is to give them a break from the damaging effects of UV from sun and lightbulbs, and other negative environmental conditions they may be subjected to while in a public gallery rather than in storage. This enables museum staff to preserve objects longer for future generations.
I’m excited to bring my past experience to the National Buffalo Museum, and look forward to many exciting projects. I’ll be bringing you further installments about ongoing work with the National Buffalo Museum Collections. If you have questions or interest in volunteering at the Museum, please call or email Rachel at 701-252-8648 / email@example.com