SPACE RELATIONS IN A SMALL ARCHIVE
By Michael Langmyer, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
The term archive is associated with large square rooms and extensive wall length and height, a room with halls and corridors that seems endless in capacity. These are places like the National Archive in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Institute, or the British Museum of Natural History. These three are major examples of what a large archive might be, but most towns, cities, businesses, and non-profits have an archive to manage. These institutions do not have the unlimited space that the larger museums and conservation centers have, and must take actions based on those limits in available space. Those actions are made every day by the people who work in small archives so that objects of value can be held in those institutions. There are four in total that can help maximize the storage capacity of an archive. The purpose of these four points is to make every inch of space count with the storage of items. I will base all examples from my work in the Historic Shepherdstown Commission’s archive.
The first action to take in conserving space is the organization of the collections and the physical archive. The layout of the archive can be done any way imaginable. A typical archive has shelves, either metal or wood, filing cabinets, pull out drawers, and archival boxes scattered throughout. With these materials in hand, two or three of the four walls covered with metal or wooden shelves. Whatever space is left will be dedicated to any filing cabinets or other forms of storage. There should be a small spaced saved for supply shelf in your archive as well. This does not need to be large, but can hold everything that you would need to run an archive. The archive at the Historic Shepherdstown Commission has seven metal shelves on three different walls with three filing cabinets sandwiched into three small spaces around those shelves. One of those shelves, as I mentioned above, is dedicated to storage of office materials. The other six shelves are to hold historical objects.
However, the Marshall County Historical Society actively tries to show the local community that history is for everyone, and is so much more than weighty textbooks and easily forgotten dates. In May, the museum began a yearlong partnership with the John Marshall High School’s Public Relations course, taught by Jonna Kuskey. Working with Mrs. Kuskey, the students decided to produce updated promotional materials and new exhibition text for the museum’s permanent exhibit. Featuring themes and objects curated by Elizabeth James, the AmeriCorps service member serving through the Marshall County Historical Society, students were able to get hands-on experience with real historical objects.
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