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Gaining Better Intellectual Control of a Valuable Collection

U.S. Maritime Administration Asset InventoryThe U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) needed to update its record of the number and condition of historical artifacts, or “heritage assets,” held at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point, New York. This work would keep them in compliance with federal financial accounting standards (Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB), SFFAS 29, Heritage Assets and Stewardship Land). But beyond compliance, the assembling of this information would allow the agency to better manage and use these tangible connections to its rich past and present identity.

The work required professionals who were familiar with federal curatorial standards and practices as well as museum standards for collections management. They also wanted someone with knowledge of maritime history who would understand the historic significance of the material for proper cataloging.

A Team of Specialists to Achieve Multiple Objectives

After a competitive bidding process, MARAD selected History Associates to conduct the work for several reasons: the collections management team at History Associates has extensive experience in object description and cataloging and is conversant in a wide variety of specialized museum cataloging software. The firm also has deep knowledge of maritime history, having worked on numerous historical and archival projects for Navy museums and organizations over the years.

Professional collections managers from History Associates 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 assessed the physical condition and stability of each object based on American Institute of Conservation guidelines. History Associates also 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, a History Associates 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. Clayton Harper of the Museum noted “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.”

Get the Most Value from Your Collections

Start today by contacting History Associates! Call us at (301) 279-9697 or submit an online inquiry to discuss your project.

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