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Prairie Village Museum offering seminar, volunteer opportunity

By Staff | Jan 20, 2017

Volunteers are taught proper cataloging techniques, including description writing, photography and artifact packing protocol. Museum Executive Director Cathy Jelsing helps volunteers describe dolls in order to be cataloged.

Prairie Village Museum is hosting a museum training seminar throughout the winter. The seminar focuses on the cataloging of museum artifacts through photography, data entry and preservation of the collections.

The current project is the cataloging of the museum’s dolls. The dolls collection needed to be moved, cataloged and packed first, as the building the collection was housed in is undergoing major construction. The building was beginning to rot and in desperate need of repair.

The Doll Project is being used as a teaching workshop to introduce volunteers to the process of cataloging, photographing and packing collections. Other collections will be made available for cataloging once the dolls are finished. Future collections include tractors, guns, etc.

“We’re trying to take care of [these collections] the best we can, but we need help to do that,” Collections Manager Stephanie Steinke said. “It’s a good way for people to understand how museums work internally, as we follow the same best practice standards that other, larger museums follow.”

To catalog a collection, volunteers will create an assembly line. There are different steps to complete the cataloging of an item. First, an artifact needs to be described on a form that will be provided by the museum. Volunteers will determine if items need to be cleaned or vacuumed and set aside for further preservation, or if they can simply be packed.

Descriptions of each item are necessary to include on the form. Descriptions include height and weight of the item, when and where it was made, acquisition details, and condition of the item on a scale from excellent to poor, among other description terms. Items will be labeled with a registration number, described in a broad category, and then will receive a specific name. Items will then be photographed and packed. Volunteers will have the opportunity to work at each station in order to get experience in all areas.

The museum plans to create an online database of all cataloged artifacts, with access to item information and photos. The forms that volunteers fill out during the cataloging process will be entered into this online database. The database can be used for local research, as well as an “online museum.”

“We’re serving more than just Pierce County,” Steinke said. “In order to remain relevant to our outside donors, and to keep up with other museums, we have to make progress in having a digital presence. This project is starting that process.”

There are no eligibility requirements for volunteers to help with this project except they must have legible handwriting. Volunteers of all ages and genders are welcome.

The project sessions are held Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. in the new building behind Dairy Queen, at 130 Viking Dr. Saturday morning sessions are also being made available starting this week, from 10 a.m. – noon.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Steinke at (701) 208-0704, email museum executive director Cathy Jelsing at prairievillagemuseum@gmail.com, or join the museum’s emailing list to stay up to date.

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