The Heritage Center of Clark County is more sophisticated than your average store-and-lock, but Director of Collections Virginia Weygandt said it will use $15,000 from the state’s first tax checkoff history grants to answer three questions everyone with stuff in storage wants to know:
“What do we have? Where is it? And what is it’s current condition?”
Out of more than 60 applicants, the local museum was one of 11 to be awarded money from the Ohio History Fund program administered by the Ohio Historical Society. In its first year, the program is funded by a $1 checkoff donation Ohioans can make while filing their taxes.
“We are kind of a poster child for this program,” said Curator Kasey Eichensehr.
Added Curatorial Technician Mel Glover, “We’re pretty honored.”
With an additional $3,300 grant it received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to buy storage materials, the museum staff will sort through and reorder the second floor storage spaces that hold material not display on the museum but that are a source for rotating exhibits and research.
Boxes on metal shelves there hold everything from campaign buttons and military uniforms to trophies and teapots.
“We’re going in and taking a look at everything,” Glover said.
Last week, he came across two flags “that were in need of special attention,” he said. “One of them, I was immediately able to take care of, but the other one will have to go to a conservator” for repairs.
Finding what needs to be repaired and in what order is one of the goals of the 18-month project.
Another is to restore the organizational scheme that after a dozen years in the museum during which items have been continually added is “fraying at the edges,” Eichensehr said.
When the Heritage Center opened, “the rooms were organized according to relative broad categories. Everything’s classified by how it was used,” Eichensehr said.
The work funded by the grant will “get that organization back in place.”
Natalie Fritz, a curatorial assistant, said the project will include updating a computerized list of the collection.
In the short run, that will make the collection “more accessible” to the staff as it assembles exhibits and researchers who come to the museum, Fritz said.
Eichensehr added that it eventually should benefit those who never set foot in the building
“Our digital catalog, our database, allows you to photograph and display items,” she said. “Once we get the stuff in there, we can start getting closer to doing online exhibits” with a program the museum owns that was designed for that purpose.
The computer inventory also will relieve Weygandt of the feeling that she is the “living brain” of the collection — a primary source of what’s in its nooks and crannies.
“It’s much more responsible that everyone knows where everything is,” she said.
Glover said that’s also more efficient for staff operations.
“When I was an intern here,” he said, “it was frustrating for me to have to go to Virginia and Kasey all the time and interrupt them.
“Once we have this,” he said, knocking on wood, “we shouldn’t have to do that.”
In what is a continual process, the museum in January applied for another grant to buy staff time for photographing items and moving closer toward online exhibits.
But for now, said, Eichensehr, “We just have to do a lot of work.”