How do you start a museum collection? Well, someone says "I would like to give you these things" and you say "Okay, I'll take them." And there it begins.
In the case of the museum collection at CWU, the collection began in 1953 with a large donation from a local doctor which runs the gamut from lithics, to natural history material, to coffee grinders. After that, the donations were pretty quiet until the 1970s when an effort was made to become a museum.
In the 1970s, many donations were made to the museum, and an exhibition space was created. A professional museologist (their term!) was brought on board to maintain collections, exhibits, and the museum studies program. Sadly, around 1980, budget cuts resulted in the loss of the museologist position and the museum more or less shut down. The collections remained. Over the next 20 years, efforts were made from time to time to revitalize the museum, but none came to full fruition. In the past decade or so, the collections were cared for by one of the professors and his wife, who served as volunteer curator.
I was brought on in August as part of a bigger plan for the museum. Renovations in one of the buildings on campus will provide us with a dedicated exhibition space and a collections space with more climate control then we currently have now. It is my task to ready the collections for a move to this new facility. This includes everything from writing up new policy and forms, to putting official paperwork in order, to making sure the collections are housed in ways which will keep them as stable as possible for as long as possible. And that's the short version of the story as I've discovered it. I understand that a longer version is in the works for the official museum site (which I will, of course, link to when we get it ready to roll).
It's really very exciting. While the collection has been cared for and documented over the years, I can find areas where we can improve on the care and documentation. By doing this, we'll make the collection useful to potential researchers (students, faculty, visiting scholars) and we'll have a really cool collection to use as a base for exhibitions in the new museum space. I hope you'll follow the journey.