[This is a copy of an e-mail sent out by Constance B. Schulz in the History Department on the Archival Students Guild website.]
Dear Archives Students - I know most of you are concentrating on archival volunteering, but in case any of you are also thinking about careers in museums, and are interested in the difference between collections management of objects and of documents, one of the Public History students in the Museum track has sent out the following inquiry: (respond directly to her)
Hey Everyone -- My name is Jan Levinson and I am in my second year of the Public History program here at USC. I am in the early stages of setting up a new volunteer organization which would work to benefit museums in the Columbia area. After reading the below information, please email me at JLLevinson@gmail.com if you would be interested in participating in this volunteer group. Keep in mind our first project would likely happen in early Spring of 2008.
This would be a volunteer group for graduate students with any interest in museum and collections management. The goal of this group would be to supply extra hands to Columbia-area museums for collections-based projects. The idea would be to set-up a 1-2 day project every few months at a local museum; the project might be something like conducting an inventory of collections in storage, digital photography of collections, re-housing, etc. Either a project that the museum has started and could use a boost of man(or woman)-power to finish up, or a small-scale project that could be accomplished using 5-10 volunteers for a day.
I would act as the coordinator for the group, contacting museums to discuss project descriptions/timelines; the students would be those who are interested in gaining or enhancing their collections experience, but all would be graduate students with an interest in museums and with at least some previous collections experience.
A registrar/collections manager from the local area would be on-hand to supervise our day-long project (if the institution where we are volunteering does not have a full time collections person; otherwise, the professional employee at that museum would supervise). I envision the day beginning with an explanation from the museum professional to the group on how to accomplish the task at hand (ex. quick lesson on condition reporting with examples, demonstration of the proper way to handle or photograph objects). In the end, this would provide the students with membership in a volunteer organization and hands-on collections experience, and the hosting institution with some extra hands to help accomplish a set goal.
In the end, this is a learning experience, and all the activities won't involve direct handling of collections -- the activities of each project will be at the discretion of the hosting institution and their professional staff. But in the end, the activities of these projects will involve collections and participation by the volunteers will result in an enhanced knowledge of proper museum practices that will benefit the student in his/her later internships/professional careers. Basically, like a very short-term internship (hard labor + experience = increased collections knowledge, enhanced resume, & warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping non-profits!)
Ideally, if this takes off, then we could gather volunteers and set up a calender of projects at local institutions (a 1-2 day-long project every 2-3 months; goal of helping 3 institutions a year). This is an initiative that hopefully will have a long lifespan and will be continued from year to year here in Columbia. I have contacted several collections managers in our local area and many seem excited about this opportunity!
DearIf you are interested in participating in this initiative, please drop me a quick email (Subject Line: Volunteer Opportunity) with your name, contact information, and a few sentences describing any previous collections experience you might have had (not a prerequisite). After I collect some feedback, I will try to set up a meeting for interested parties and will look to organize our first project for January of 2008.
Look forward to hearing from you!
- Jan Levinson