Accidental Archivist
Carrie Christoffersen
Senior Manager of Collections and Registration

The Accidental Archivist
Continuing Education (CE) Course
Sunday, June 6, 2004
1-5 pm
Special Libraries Association 2004 Annual Conference News Division

Carrie Christoffersen began her presentation with a brief introduction to the Newseum, its work, and its collection.

With a collection, it's imperative to strike a balance between being a packrat and throwing away everything. It isn't always easy to determine what to keep. Their collection contains photographs, documents, and artifacts. It's important to have a collection plan in place, otherwise, collecting and saving can get out of hand.

Carrie talked about some issues with ownership and copyright with items in a collection. It's important to make sure the person making the donation actually has the rights to donate the item. Copyright isn't vital to acquiring something, but it can cause problems down the road if someone wants to, say, use a photograph in a publication or something.

Carrie feels lucky because her managers realize the value of proper storage space, including climate controlled. She prefers things to be in cabinets because the climate is easier to control that way and items have more protection. Acid-free protection is also important, as is awareness about other dangers, like the residue from sticky notes. Fluctuation in temperature and humidity can be very dangerous.

Light damage is very dangerous. It causes more than fading, like brittleness.

Carrie passed around some readouts from a hygrotherograph, light damage cards, and a thermohygrometer. They're small, so they fit easily inside a display case and give instant readings. They also use light meters, light damage cards, and material, like silica, to remove moisture from the air.

The storage areas are well-labeled. They have sophisticated security systems which allow only authorized people in the collection. They also have emergency plans in place, including a list of the most important items in the collection and their location in case quick removal is necessary. Some of their storage equipment has special sensors to guard against water damage or contamination by bad air.

Special Libraries Association 2004 Annual Conference
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Last Updated: 06/06/04