Social Sciences and Humanities

Seeking Input

  • 1.  Seeking Input

    Posted 05-22-2019 10:09

    I recently started a position within an archives/library attached to a museum.  My position is research librarian and I was hired to help the museum educator find items for new exhibits.

    The archives/library has been volunteer-run for the entirety of its life (1954 to present).  I am the first paid staff member.  For a volunteer-run archives related to a trolley museum - where the trolleys and electric streetcars are the real draw - it is pretty comprehensive.  In fact, they have about 10,000 sq ft of business records, photographs, film, slides, books, bound periodicals, ephemera, newspaper clippings, etc...

    There is a collection policy that has not been used.  Nothing has been accessioned, and there are no finding aids.  Right now, I am in the process of: creating a disaster prevention and recovery program, assessing the collection overall, and updating/reviewing the collection policy.  Also I am meeting the volunteers one by one.

    What would be your course of action?  What would be your priorities here?

    Carrie L. Wardzinski
    Research Librarian
    Pennsylvania Trolley Museum
    1 Museum Road
    Washington, PA 15301

  • 2.  RE: Seeking Input

    Posted 05-29-2019 08:03
    Hi Carrie,

    I was in a somewhat similar situation in my last job. There was paid staff, but the collection policy had not been followed and there were virtually no records for archival holdings.

    The things you are working on sound like a great way to start. The collection policy will guide much of your work. I found mine very useful in determining priorities for creating finding aids and in helping me decline or deaccession collections that didn't fit the policy. Do you have a mission statement? That can help frame the collection policy.

    Developing good relationships with your volunteers is important, especially if they've been around long enough to have institutional knowledge. They probably also have subject knowledge. I used volunteers to create most of my finding aids.

    I'm happy to chat more and hope you'll update us once you've been in the job for a while. It would be great to hear from others, too!


    Tara Murray
    SLA President-elect
    Librarian for Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
    Penn State
    (814) 865-0660

  • 3.  RE: Seeking Input

    Posted 05-29-2019 14:54
    Hi Carrie,

    While I don't have specific experience with what you're dealing with, I thought I could point you to some resources that you might find useful (if you're not already aware of them):

    Building an Emergency Plan: Guide for Museums & Cultural Institutions

    Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies, Second Edition

    The American Institute for Conservation's Emergencies page (with many helpful links)

    dPlan: The Online Disaster-Planning Tool

    PA Cultural Resilience Network | Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts

    Disaster Planning and Response Resources | Society of American Archivists

    Standards & Best Practices Resource Guide | Society of American Archivists

    I hope this helps!

    All the best,

    Anna Duer, MLIS
    Research Associate
    The Getty Conservation Institute