Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rock and roll! Actually, less rolling please.

Look at how shiny all those rocks are! But wait! They're impostors! Those are reproductions! Made from plastic! In the 1970s!

But no need to be all exclamatory. These are the kind of casts commonly used in education collections in museums and archaeology departments across the country. These are very high quality casts, but it is not the way of small museums to have such large Clovis points, or to have authentic Mousterian or Levallois pieces.

You'll note these casts have numbers on them. At some point in the past, these casts were accessioned into the permanent collection. By accessioning these pieces, the museum agreed to hold and preserve these pieces to the best of its ability in perpetuity. Whether or not a set of casts should or should not be held as "museum objects" is not a question we're going to address just yet. But the numbers were applied to show that the object belongs the museum and to give some information about it and to make it unique from the other objects that might look like it. The 21 means that these casts were our 21st accession. The 15 on that one in front means it is the fifteenth object cataloged.

You'll also note that the pieces are just knocking around at the bottom of that box there. Having objects "knocking around" does not mesh with preserving an object in perpetuity. So one of my projects today was to put the casts and their original sleeves in new polypropelyne bags, labeled and organized by catalog number (that's the accession number followed by the object number, or 21-15 for that one in front).

After completing my project, the casts are better protected, more organized, and accounted for.

This is actually a pretty good example of what a collections manager does: Protect, organize, and account for. It just doesn't sound as fun when you say it like that, does it?

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