Collections Management: Cataloguing a donated object

This blog post is by Rita Butteri, our collections manager.  

The mission of the Pioneer Air Museum (PAM) is to collect, protect, and preserve for educational purposes, objects that reflect the history of interior and arctic Alaskan aviation through acquiring, restoring, interpreting, and displaying historically significant objects. It can’t be done without record keeping which is the job of a Collections Manager.
What is the process of record keeping? Read on:

OBJECT: Quartz table watch from Wien Air Alaska
This item was donated a long time ago and with no DONOR’S FORM.  If no donor’s form exists we call it “Found In Collection” (FIC).

1. An Accession number is assigned to the object. For this object the Accession number is 2020.FIC  (2020 for year the object was found in the collection) FIC indicates the that it was Found ICollection and the donor is unknown. 

2. An Object number follows the Accession number. For our object it is the thirty-second item to be cataloged. This makes a final Object ID number that looks like 2020.FIC.032

3. Detailed photographs of the object are taken including damaged areas.

4.  Collection Managers of the Pioneer Air Museum have been cataloging the collections since 2012 using PastPerfect Museum Software. Following the systems templates we enter a meticulous description of the items which includes condition, measurements just to mention a few.  If available we enter the donor’s information, history, value in which case we dedicate the object to a specific Collection. Finally we upload the picture to the record, assign a specific location to where the object is stored or displayed so anybody who has access to the database can locate the object at any time. 

5. If appropriate the object is cleaned up following museum collection cleaning guidelines, tagged and carefully transported to its assigned location.

A similar process is done with Archival material, photos and books. To catalog an object like the Quartz table watch can take 15 to 30 minutes. On the other hand, take one of the aircrafts displayed at the Pioneer Air Museum. Cataloging that can stretch over days and weeks. The museum currently houses and cares for approximately 4,500 historic objects. The collection includes 14 aircraft, more than 20 aircraft engines and the number is rising as we catalog more items. 
If you consider donating items please contact the Pioneer Air Museum’s collections manager so we can determine if the item complies with the Pioneer Air Museum’s collections Policy. 

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