An Archival Arrangement

Like many museums, the Pioneer Air Museum has a history of collecting objects without the best possible record keeping. Museums, historically, have been formed this way – from one person’s collection, turning into a collection from friends and connections. Looking to the future of the Pioneer Air Museum, we know that this practice can no longer go on. The museum has taken several steps moving towards museum best practices, including hiring a summer intern every year since 2012, and having two consultations by professionals from the Alaska State Museum and the Alaska State Archives. The most recent of these endeavors was a consultation by Dean Dawson, Alaska State Archivist.

Mr. Dawson spent three days in April with myself and our curator, Pete Haggland, inventorying and organizing our paper collections. Most of our paper collections were located in one area, our old theater. The old theater contained 20 chairs bolted to the ground and had been used for storage for the last several years. Mr. Dawson and I created a clean workspace of several tables and began pulling out boxes to process. The goal was to gain what is called “intellectual control” over our collections – essentially, we wanted to know what we have! We processed the entire theater space, including four shelving units and a safe. What we found included books, manuals, paper collections, institutional records, photographs, slides, and objects. At the end of three days, we had an inventory of 53 boxes, as well as some over sized items such as maps, posters, and blueprints. We are very grateful for the help of Mr. Dawson, whose expertise in this area has started us on the path to archival processing that will create better access to these records for the public.

Work Party
The following Saturday, April 26th, we had 17 volunteers from our membership, the Eielson Air Force Base, as well as the AMT school help us to clear the theater space out, removing the chairs, some shelving, and the difficult to move safe. They set up shelving units that now house the organized and inventoried boxes of archival collections. Without the help of our members and volunteers, we would not be able to accomplish much of the museum’s mission, and we are thankful for their efforts!

Where do we go from here?
The next step in processing these collections is an inventory and cataloging of the contents of each box. We have hired an intern for this summer, who will be working with me on cataloging the paper collections, as well as continuing to process our object collections. There is still a lot to be done at the Pioneer Air Museum, but we are proud of how far we’ve come in just the last few years!

If you are interested in becoming involved with the Pioneer Air Museum, either as a member or a volunteer, we are always grateful for your help! Projects include restoration of our historic airplanes, inventorying the collections, public and children’s programming, and event staffing. Please contact us if you are interested!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *