On average, only 2% of museum Collections are on display through exhibits. Our museum, which represents a benchmark for rural and regional museums, has a number of consistent objects on display in our permanent exhibits. Temporary and special exhibits offer the Museum an opportunity to showcase objects within the Collection that are often stored in the CSF. This March, the Museum will be showcasing highlights from the Oral History Archive, along with temporal objects from the Collection. [Moab Museum]

This month in the Museum’s column, we are focusing on the collection: the objects cared for and preserved at the Moab Museum. 

Recently, we began an 18-month process to achieve better collections care—care that aligns with the standards held by accredited cultural institutions in the region. Storage upgrades were implemented and collections and archives were re-housed in acid-free, certified archival materials. Climate-monitoring technology was integrated to assure a stable environment suitable for sensitive materials, and policies have been finalized to ensure high standards for stewarding objects for years to come.

Led by Curatorial and Collections Manager Tara Beresh, Museum staff began transferring objects to the new off-site Collections Storage Facility for research, preservation, and care. Last week’s column focused on what the Museum’s collection contains and how it came to be. This week, we fast forward to the present with one question in mind:

How do you best preserve your historical objects?

At the Moab Museum, our staff wants to hear from you personally. What is the story of your object? Where did it come from? Who had it before you and your family? 

Each museum is guided by its own Collections Management Policy. Within this policy, the Moab Museum includes a Scope of Collections Statement, which outlines both what is in the collection currently, and informs which new objects are received. The growth of the collection is informed by our ability to preserve the item per American Alliance of Museums standards, research, and interpretive needs when it comes to the display of the object, and how the object enhances our understanding of the region’s historical resources. 

Through a Donation of Objects and Donor Questionnaire and a one-on-one meeting with the Museum’s Collection Manager or Director, we talk through the alignment of the object and those Collections growth guidelines. It’s important to note, however, that not all objects are accepted into the Museum’s permanent collection. Some are only held at the Museum for a short amount of time, particularly for special and temporary exhibits. Some objects do not fit into the Scope of Collections altogether–they are thematically unaligned with the Museum’s mission, or they are better suited for care elsewhere. Our staff will work with each prospective donor to find the appropriate location for those objects so that they serve the community they come from. 

What happens if the Museum wants to add your object to the collection?

If the object aligns with our mission and Scope of Collections Statement, we begin the legal transfer of ownership. This is called accessioning—the formal act of legally accepting an object or objects to the category of material that a museum holds in the public trust, or in other words those in the Museum’s permanent collection.

Documentation requires that each object receive an accession number – a unique number assigned to a collection element or group of elements that comprise the accession. At the Moab Museum, each object will receive an object number which documents the element within the accession. This number distinguishes between objects donated in the same batch. 

Then comes care, research, preservation, and display. Once items are legally transferred, the curatorial and collections manager will investigate treatment and care options for the object. With the help of staff and volunteers, an object is cataloged in a physical register as well as in the Museum’s digital collections database, called Rediscovery. Then, the object is stored with like items in the museum’s Collections Storage Facility–organized for easy re-location and retrieval for use in future exhibits, programs, and/or research. Our staff and volunteers consistently refer to Rediscovery to augment existing knowledge of the objects in our database and recall items from storage if individuals in the community want to know more.

Do you have an ongoing research project that can be bolstered by objects in the Museum collection? Perhaps you have an attic full of family history you want to see preserved… Learn more about the Museum’s Collection process in the coming weeks in our column or visit us in person or online. 

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. This is part of a series highlighting photographs and stories of downtown Moab over time. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.