May and June have been busy months at the Heurich House Museum. At the end of May, the American Alliance of Museums Annual Conference (AAM) was hosted in Washington, D.C. In January 2016, the museum was selected to be a candidate for the Registrars Reinforcement Crew (RRC) annual service project. Started in 2007, this project is an annual event where professionals who are members of the Registrars Committee of the American Alliance of Museums (RC-AAM) donate their time to smaller institutions to work on a variety of projects the day before the official AAM conference begins. Since it’s formation, the RRC has served 28 institutions, and over 150 professionals have volunteered their time to these service projects. Past projects that the RRC has worked on include: accessioning collections items, condition reporting, rehousing objects, photographing and inventory. RRC service projects are made possible by generous sponsors and partners who donate the funds and materials necessary; this year’s sponsors and partners were Methods and Materials, Inc, TCI-Transportation Consultants InternationalTCI-Transportation Consultants International, Terry Dowd, LLC and Masterpak.
The Heurich House Museum applied for a grant from the RRC to request help with examining objects and completing condition reports on pieces in our collection. The museum hasn’t completed condition reports since 2003, so it was important to begin implementation of baseline reports to better gauge the health of our collections throughout time.
There was a lot of work to be done and decisions to be made before our amazing crew of 8 volunteers arrived. First, we needed to decide exactly what objects we wanted the crew to examine. We decided to select objects according to certain criteria: 1) The object must be original to the Heurich Family, 2) Objects that receive more use, such as objects that are moved frequently for events or that are used by the museum, would be given higher priority, 3) Objects that are original, but for which we have little documentation on the condition or provenance would be given higher priority. For example, on the first floor entry hall we decided to have the card receiver, suit of armor, grandfather clock and a wood table examined because they are original to the family and are at higher risk of damage since they are not behind a stanchion. Other items included the formal dining room chairs and dining room table, the hand-carved wood furniture in the Bierstube, and all of the marble topped tables in the kitchen. After the criteria were set, we selected 100 objects and identified 50 as high priority.
The next step in this process was to create a condition report form that could be used to assess a wide variety of items in our collection. The report had to include the objects’ dimensions, previous inventory or accession numbers, the medium, and general condition summary of the object. For example, the gaming table in the Reception Room is composed of a textile (the green leather panel), a wood base and body of the table, and metal hardware. The condition report form had allowed the examiner to identify all of the different materials on the piece and the various scratches, stains, oxidixation/tarnish and red rot conditions that they observed. We also asked the examiners to report on the stability of the piece.
Working in pairs, the registrars were able to complete nearly all 50 of the high priority objects in the short five hours they were at the museum. This crew was an excellent group of professionals and took the time to carefully examine and report on the smallest of details.
We thank the RRC volunteers for their time and hard work in completing these condition reports. You help us to better care for our collections!