For the first time in its history, the Creston Museum is asking people NOT to donate objects to its collection.
“We receive, on average, one donation of artifacts every week,” says Museum manager Tammy Bradford.
Sometimes, a donation consists of a single object. More often, it fills a large box or a pickup truck. At least once every couple of months, Museum staff receive a phone call offering a whole house or barn full of things to choose from.
“After forty years of that,” says Bradford, “as you can imagine, our storage areas are crowded full to overflowing, and we need to deal with that if we are going to continue collecting.”
Over the next few months, the Museum is undertaking a massive reorganisation of the collections in its storage areas. Instead of being placed haphazardly wherever there is room, objects are being grouped according to size, type, or function; this will make it a lot easier to care for different types of objects in future and to find the particular one that is needed.
Duplicate, broken, and incomplete objects, as well as those with no known connection to local history, are being culled to make way for those that really tell the local story.
New shelving is being installed to make the best possible use of the space.
“It’s a huge job,” says Bradford, “and we cannot possibly achieve it if we have to deal with fifty to 500 new objects at the same time. So we are asking that people who have objects to donate hang onto them until the New Year.”
The Museum is also restricting its own collections-based activities while the reorganisation work goes ahead. Work on new exhibits will start in January 2017, instead of beginning this fall. Presentations to community groups, school-oriented activities, and similar programs will make use of the Museum’s extensive collection of photographs, newspapers, and documents, rather than the artifact collections.
“A reorganisation of this magnitude – it affects everything we do,” says Bradford. “That’s why we’re only doing it once in forty years!”
“We want to emphasise, and re-emphasise, that this is temporary,” she adds. The moratorium on donations of artifacts is in effect from the middle of September to the end of December, 2016.
“Give us a few months to really deal with what we already have,” says Bradford, “then we would love to see your local-history treasures. We know there are a lot of important things, in basements and attics and barns all over the Creston Valley. We want to be able to give them the safe home and the proper care that they deserve.”
In the meantime, the Museum’s exhibit galleries are open to the public, and staff will make every effort to respond to public research requests.
“What we do need right now,” says Bradford, “is people to help with the reorganisation. It’s not all heavy lifting; there’s a lot of sorting and labeling to be done, as well as packing and moving smaller items. It’s a chance to work in areas of the Museum that are not normally open to the public. We’ve posted details about volunteer opportunities on our website, and we invite you to check them out and sign up!”
Funding for this project has been made available from Columbia Basin Trust, Creston-Kootenay Foundation, Canadian Heritage, and the generous support of many individuals.