What Are the Benefits of Conducting a Collections Inventory?
In order to maintain compliance with federal financial accounting standards (Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB), SFFAS 29, Heritage Assets and Stewardship Land), The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) sought to update its record of the number and condition of historical artifacts held at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point, New York.
The work required professionals who were familiar with federal curatorial standards and practices, museum standards for collections management, and maritime history subject matter expertise.
MARAD selected HAI to conduct the work for several reasons: the collections management team at HAI has extensive experience in object description and cataloging and is conversant in a wide variety of specialized museum cataloging software. HAI also has deep knowledge of maritime history, having worked on numerous historical and archival projects for Navy museums and organizations over the years.
“The Museum spaces that History Associates worked on are in a far better organizational and conditional state from before they started, and the team was a pleasure to work with.”
– Clayton Harper, American Merchant Marine Museum
Professional collections managers from HAI proceeded to identify artifacts, catalog them according to AAM (American Alliance of Museums) documentation standards, and reconcile the entries against original accession records and existing catalog records. They also assessed the physical condition and stability of each object based on American Institute of Conservation guidelines.
HAI then provided recommendations for future conservation measures and included both documentation and detailed conservation photographs of each heritage asset in the database. They also photographed each item to publication standards.
In addition, an HAI archivist completed a museum-wide survey to identify types of records, their physical location, the volume of each material type, overall condition, and origin, if known. The archivist compiled the data into a report indicating the total volume in linear feet of each record type and developed a general arrangement plan that provided recommendations for how to organize the materials to facilitate future archival processing projects.
In all, History Associates successfully inventoried and cataloged more than 3,500 heritage assets at the USMMA, including items within the American Merchant Marine Museum. This inventory assured that the USMMA would remain in compliance with federal accounting standards. Beyond compliance, assembling this information would allow the agency to better manage and use these tangible connections to its rich past and present identity.