Georgia State University Oral History Symposium Happening September 25

Interested in oral history? Georgia State University is hosting the first ever Oral History Symposium, Uncovering Hidden Narratives, on Saturday, September 25th from 9am to 5pm. The symposium was organized by oral historians from Atlanta History Center, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Emory University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, National Park Service, Oral History Association, Storycorps, University of Georgia, and We Love Buford Highway. The symposium will kick off with keynote speaker Althea Sumpter with her talk centered on trauma in oral histories. Throughout the day attendees can choose sessions that best suit their needs and interests for those that are just beginning or thinking about starting an oral history project to those that are part of established programs. We will wrap up with a meet and greet where attendees can network with other attendees and organizations who support and manage oral history projects.

Maximum capacity for this event is 75 registrants. Masks are strongly encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Register here.

We need a minimum of 25 registrations by September 10th in order for the program to proceed. All registrants will be notified by September 15th if the event cannot be held as planned and will be reimbursed for their registration costs.

Also, if you are knowledgeable about oral history yourself and would like to help, we are still looking for presenters in these areas:

Intermediate 

People with some experience in oral history (e.g. may have done interviews but may have not coordinated a project). They know what they don’t know. Sessions should present a skill that participants can begin practicing and perfecting. 

  • Funding (grants, Foundations, Federal) 
    • Creating a fundraising plan 

Advanced 

Experienced in oral history. Done many interviews and maybe some projects in the past. Don’t know what they really know (i.e. have lots of oral history practice but not much reflection on the process). Sessions should present a question for discussion. 

  • Beyond the University 
    • Use of oral history in non-academic efforts (e.g. corporate and community) 
    • Combination of academic, corporate, and/or community projects 
    • How much should funders control or have input into project design? 
    • How do you engage both interviewees and stakeholders in a project? 
    • What worked? What didn’t? What should be the takeaway from these efforts? 

A President in our Midst documentary will air on Tuesday, September 21st at 7 pm

A President in our Midst will air on Georgia Public Broadcasting on Tuesday, September 21st at 7 p.m. This compelling new documentary describes the mutual benefits that the friendship provided to both the President and the people of Georgia. 

Historic photos from the Little White House, Roosevelt Warm Springs Archives, the FDR Library, and archives across Georgia are featured in the documentary.  Additionally rare film footage from the Brown Media Archives at UGA Libraries and footage from the FDR Library are used.

In January, 2019, author and screenwriter Kaye Minchew of LaGrange and executive producer Dan White of Yatesville and Atlanta approached Georgia Public Broadcasting with a proposal to create a documentary about FDR’s life in Georgia based on Minchew’s book, A President in our Midst. With the assurance of a broadcast platform, efforts began to secure the financing and technical resources necessary to complete the film.

In January of 2020, Georgia Humanities agreed to be the official sponsor of the documentary and Georgia State University TV agreed to provide the technical expertise necessary to create the film. Filming began in September, 2020, in locations throughout Georgia.  LaGrange, Gainesville, Athens, Atlanta, Warm Springs, Thomaston, Barnesville as well as Harris, Meriwether and Upson County are all featured in the film. Using drone photography and location shooting, combined with archival photos and historical film clips, A President in Our Midst brings to viewers a contemporary image of life during the period 1921 to 1945.

Financing for the film was privately raised through public donations. In addition, the combined talents of over 70 Georgians helped create the finished product. Carol Howington Cain, James Fowler and Bill Murray are featured performers in the documentary. Oral history narratives from a variety of Georgians whose lives and institutions were profoundly shaped by FDR and the New Deal in Georgia are also featured. This most consequential of stories will be presented to a new generation of Georgians. 

The documentary recently received two awards from the Southern Film Festival, held in LaGrange. The documentary was named the best feature documentary and received the People’s Choice Award.  

Reflections on the 2021 Georgia Archives Institute

by Terri Hatfield, 2021 Carroll Hart Scholarship Recipient

As the 2020 recipient of the Carroll Hart Scholarship, I first want to thank the scholarship committee and the Society of Georgia Archivists for the award and the opportunity to attend the Georgia Archives Institute. What an incredible honor!

I can still remember receiving notice that the 2020 GAI would be cancelled mere weeks after being notified of receiving the scholarship. Though we all had become accustomed to the certain disappointment that came as the COVID-related cancellations and postponements started to pile up last year, this one was particularly hard for me to take. A year later, I was pleased to hear the scholarship had been extended to allow me to attend a virtual version of the Institute in 2021.

I have to admit: I was incredibly intimidated to be there! I have recently completed my MLIS and want to eventually work exclusively in archives, special collections, and public history, and so I desperately wanted to learn more about archives. Furthermore, alongside my primary duties as Program Coordinator for the Institute for Women’s Studies, an academic unit at the University of Georgia, I have also been informally tasked with managing the departmental archives, which include photos, newspaper clippings, memos, letters, flyers, posters, and other ephemera pertaining to the unit since its inception in 1977. So, I also desperately needed to learn more about archives. But I don’t currently officially work in an archive or library. On the first day, as the other attendees shared their backgrounds, anecdotes, and job titles, I worried my experience was too little and too informal to be there.

What made me feel more at ease was hearing many of the guest speakers talk about how the very nature of the ever-changing field of archives means you’re always learning something new, whether it’s a new practice in the field or a new item in your collection you’ve never processed before. So, you might always feel a bit like an ameatur. The key is being open to learning and changing with the field. And that’s why I was there: to learn!

And learn I did. I was impressed with exactly how much GAI was able to fit into a week and a day of courses. It was mentioned that each section of the Institute was approximately a full semester of coursework. I believe it. So much was covered, from selecting, acquiring, and appraising, to accessioning and deaccessioning, to arrangement and description, to copyright, security concerns, reference, instruction and outreach, diversity and inclusion, and more. So much more! Our primary instructor, Pam Hackbart-Dean, was awesome in keeping us focused and on these many tasks, and in managing the Zoom chat, questions, and other distractions. She was knowledgeable and personable and tried to make sure we all felt seen and heard.

From the practical lessons on preservation offered by Tina Mason Seetoo, such as how to remove a staple and how to dry out a dampened book; to the descriptions and explanations of activities and strategies of digital preservation (multiple copies, multiple media types, multiple locations!) provided by Katherine Fisher; to the crucial and invaluable reading and guest lecture on Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppressive Archival Description, the other faculty and guest speakers covered broad and extensive material for students to discover and consider further.

One of my favorite guest lectures was on Community Archives presented by Tamika Strong. What an interesting and important project preserving funeral programs as a way to document people’s lives and narratives! Tamika’s personal interest in and passion for the subject matter, combined with her knowledge of archives and the field, along with the practical breakdown of how the project came together in its various phases, made for a great presentation. I learned so much! Tamika mentioned that the biographies found in funeral programs are sometimes the only biographical information available to tell a person’s life story. This is a perfect example to me of the potential of intentional archival practice. I felt inspired and empowered by this presentation and it reminded me why I want to further pursue this field. Even better is that Tamika has an MLIS and is an alum of GAI – like me! How cool is that!? I hope to find my archival superpower like Tamika has, and be as effective and valuable to the field!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome gift box attendees received during the week. What a pleasant treat! Thank you to the GAI board for the adorable mini Hollinger box that will sit atop my desk at work and of course for all the delicious goodies! While everyone else gushed about the praline (and rightfully so), the peach candies and vidalia onion petals are tied for my favorite! This gesture added a special touch to the experience and created a shared connection to what could have easily been a disconnected virtual cohort.

While I still feel like I have so much to learn, I’m excited to continue reading, doing, and building upon this knowledge base I gained at GAI. Of course I’m disappointed we were unable to do an internship as part of the virtual Institute, but after hearing from so many board members and representatives of archives organizations on the last day wrap-up, the potential for future collaborations or shadowing seems possible. I have already been able to apply some of the things I learned at GAI to my informal archival work in Women’s Studies at UGA and I’m excited to grow in the field.

I would highly recommend applying to attend the Georgia Archives Institute if you can. It’s an incredible and invaluable learning experience and I feel privileged to have been able to participate.

William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum

By Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor

 On Spring Street in Atlanta, there is a wonderful museum which celebrates the many Jewish contributions to our city. I asked for details from Jeremy Katz, Senior Director of Archives for the Ida Pearle and Joseph Cuba Archives.

Jeremy, give us your Breman elevator speech!
The Breman Museum is Georgia’s Jewish museum, and it is our mission to connect people to Jewish history, culture, and arts. We accomplish this mission by utilizing our physical space, which consists of three exhibition galleries, an auditorium, and an archival repository that houses the largest collection related to Jewish history in the region. We also have an ever-growing virtual space that consists of online exhibitions, programs, and access to archival collections via industry leading content management systems.

COVID has created challenges for everyone, but the Breman used the time wisely. What was your big project, and why now?
The archives at the Breman Museum turned lemons into lemonade and utilized the extra time at home to completely overhaul our entire CMS. We migrated from outdated, siloed systems to the industry leading ArchivesSpace, Aviary, and CollectionSpace. We recently joined the Archives at Yale as the only two repositories to integrate and sync Aviary with ArchivesSpace. Our endgame is to unite all this information into one public search portal like BentoSpace.

What made you choose the platforms you did for your collections?
Our staff decided on these platforms after years of research, planning, and fundraising. At the heart of the initiative was the primary goal of lowering barriers to collection access. After consulting with colleagues, vendors, and supporters we decided to work with LYRASIS to migrate to ArchivesSpace and CollectionSpace, and AVP to migrate to Aviary. This overhaul has drastically improved both administrative workflows and the user experience, as well as exponentially increased access to our collections.

What were a few of the biggest challenges for the project? What went well? What didn’t go as well?
One of the biggest challenges to the project was a double-edged sword. Working from home allowed extra time to focus on the project but is also created fact checking barriers. If we came across a possible error in a finding aid, for example, we could not double check the physical record to ensure accuracy. Besides the physical barrier due to COVID, everything went extremely smooth with the migration. That is a testament to our staff in the archives at the Breman and our support teams at LYRASIS and AVP.

Do you have any advice for anyone else planning to choose a new CMS?
Every institution is different so find the solution that works best for your content. Analyze your data and how it is structured, research the latest systems available, and budget the resources needed to achieve the migration. I also highly recommend the solution that we chose should your research point you in that direction. Seeing our content become more accessible than ever before has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

I hear an anniversary is coming up, how do you plan to celebrate?
Another project we worked extensively on over the past year is our new exhibition opening this September in honor of the Breman Museum’s 25th anniversary. History With Chutzpah: Remarkable Stories of the Southern Jewish Adventure, 1733 – Present, focuses on the archives and how we preserve and democratize access to the stories of our community. I hope you all can visit the museum to see the show after it opens in a few short weeks!

Scripts in the Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers at Rose Library are open for research

By Anicka Austin, Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, SGA Blog Contributor

Roger Moore had tough shoes to fill when he took over the job of depicting Ian Fleming’s James Bond in 1973’s Live and Let Die. Bond, up until that point, was played by a relatively well received Sean Connery and once by George Lazenby. Another Roger (Ebert) called Moore’s performance humorless, saying “Moore has been supplied with a lot of double entendres and double takes, but he doesn’t seem to get the joke.” (Ebert, 1973) While Moore’s lack of wit may have been a shortcoming, Geoffrey Holder’s scene-stealing portrayal of Baron Samedi held the “convoluted” (Mager, 2001) film together. Holder’s guttural laughter and mischievousness as the loa of the dead gave some weight to vodou themes in the film, as did his choreography.

Holder’s choreographic vocabulary is reflected in several moments in the film. In an opening scene on the fictional Caribbean island, San Monique, an MI-6 field agent named Baines cowers as Dambala dances a snake in front of his face. Behind Dambala, a crowd of people dressed in white step side to side, contracting and releasing their spines in a ritual dance. A revised Live and Let Die script described that same crowd in a later scene:

Ext: VOODOO CEMETARY – NIGHT

Lines of WORSHIPPERS and ACOLYTE GUARDS sway back and forth to the beat of drums, chanting. Oddly-dressed people of all sorts: WOMEN with cigars and bowler hats, MEN with rum kegs smoking root drugs, most wearing strange fetishes and amulets. A large cross-like stake with ropes hanging from it has been erected nearby, exactly in the place where we saw BAINES killed in the pre-title sequence. DAMBALA stands by the stake, takes in the proceedings, looks off as if waiting for something.

Holder’s relationship with Haitian vodou, and particularly with Baron Samedi, permeates through most of his work. His early writings, including Les Mysteres (undated), depict the goings-on of several loas, including Baron Samedi, Erzulie, and Agwe as well as Hector Hippolyte, a Haitian painter and spiritual leader from whom Holder drew inspiration. 

An excerpt from Les Mysteres:

The languid brown hand draws another delicate tracery on the orange earth: the vever of Ogoun. . .God of fire and might, power, authority, triumph, politics, war. Being an honest hero, a real shaker of history, Ogoun wears the sad tortured face of Christ, just unhung from the cross. The martyred warrior hero; his flesh is impervious to wounds but his spirit is not. The sword is sacred to him, the blood color of red, and the flames of burning rum on the earth are his salute. Thunder is the sound of Ogoun announcing that his balls are cold and he demands a drink of rum which he spits through his teeth.

Access to Live and Let Die and Les Mysteres is now available in the Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers. Holder and de Lavallade were both heavily involved in and influential to modern theatre, dance, and visual art. Scripts in Holder’s papers include other original writings such as The Odyssey of Anna and the Red Pumps (circa 1991-2002) and Sister Alice in Wonderland (circa 1998-2008). Holder, whose work truly ran the gamut, was also featured in ads for 7-up, as narrator for films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and as “Chef Geoffrey Lamont” on The Cosby Show (1990). These scripts and more, including several drafts of the Broadway productions The Wiz and Timbuktu, which Holder directed and costume designed, are well represented in the collection.

Researchers interested in learning more can view the finding aid, learn how to request materials from the Rose and contact reference services to make an appointment (rose.library@emory.edu).

References: 

Ebert, Roger. (1973 July 6). Live and Let Die movie review. https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/live-and-let-die-1973

Mager, William (26 July 2001). Live and Let Die. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2001/07/26/live_and_let_die_1973_review.shtml

Georgia Archives Institute 2021

By Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor

2021 Georgia Archives Institute Graduates

We, the GAI board, were disappointed last year, when the 2020 Georgia Archives Institute had to be cancelled due to COVID 19, and wanted badly to hold the Institute this year. After much discussion, the board decided on an all-online format. Sadly, this meant there would be no internships, but cancelling for a second year seemed so much worse. GAI 2021 concluded on June 14.

We were again lucky to have Pam Hackbart-Dean as our primary instructor, as well as Tina Mason Seetoo on Preservation and Katherine Fisher on Digital Preservation. To give everyone a breather now and again, we enlisted the help of guest speakers. Our topics included Anti-Racist Archival Description, Content Management Systems, Born Digital Records and Working with Community Archives. Our guest speakers volunteered their time and we valued the addition of other voices in archives for the students.

Meeting online via Zoom meant there would be no reception. The 2021 class had twenty-one students, and thanks to our sponsors, we sent everyone a goodie box with Georgia-themed treats and a mini Hollinger box. We hosted students from all over Georgia, but also from Connecticut, Alabama, Texas, Florida and South Carolina.

We also hosted several scholarship-supported attendees. We thank the Society of Georgia Archivists, the Friends of Georgia Archives and History, Georgia Public Library Service and the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council for providing these opportunities for attendees that may not have been able to take part otherwise.

On the last day of the 2021 six-day course, students, instructors and board members met for an informal online wrap-up. We heard about the Society of Georgia Archivists, the Clayton State Archival program, and the Regional Archival Associations Consortium, and heard from students about their experiences at this year’s Institute.

Our GAI sponsors include BMS Cat Fire, Water & Reconstruction Services, the Georgia Archives, HF Group, Hollinger Metal Edge, the Digital Library of Georgia, Master Enterprises, Inc., Patterson Pope, Preservation Technologies, PreserveSouth and the Society of Georgia Archivists.

We certainly hope that the 2022 Institute, scheduled for June 6 through June 17 2022, will once more include internships, a reception and our ability to meet everyone in person. You can keep an eye on our renovated website and our Facebook page for updates. In the meantime, we congratulate the 2021 graduates!

https://www.georgiaarchivesinstitute.org/
https://www.facebook.com/georgiaarchivesinstitute

The Supply Side

By Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor

Adding the Hollinger metal edge, Photograph courtesy of Bob Henderson

If you have been a member of SGA for more than a couple of years, you may have seen Bob Henderson and his table for Hollinger at annual meetings. But what do you know about Hollinger, really?

Who started Hollinger Metal Edge and when?


The Hollinger Company was started by William Hollinger in 1945. Mr. Hollinger worked with officials from The Library of Congress and National Archives to develop archival paper & board for long term storage. Following on the success of The Hollinger Company, in 1995 Bob Henderson along with the late Larry Gates formed the archival division of Metal Edge, Incorporated. After many years of collaboration, The Hollinger Company and Metal Edge, Inc. merged in 2008 to become Hollinger Metal Edge, Inc.

How many staff do you employ?
Currently 35

Most of us are familiar with the standard supplies, but tell us about the product assembly department.
The Hollinger Box begins from a large sheet of board. From there, we run the large sheet of board through a slitter to get a much smaller size sheet to accommodate the Hollinger Box cutting die. On to the die cutter, each Hollinger Box gets die cut from a single sheet of board. Think of the die cut as a cookie cutter. We can mend metal dies to make almost any shape we want. The final process in making the Hollinger Box is applying the metal edges. Our metal edge machines apply one edge at a time and resemble a large free standing sewing machine. Operators pre-fold each box and add a pull string prior to applying the metal edges to each box.

What has been the biggest challenge for Hollinger during COVID?


With the Global shutdown, we were not able to receive or ship orders. During the Summer of 2020, we noticed a small opening of Universities and Museums. Due to them, we were able to survive as a business and keep our employees employed. The Spring of 2021 is when we have noticed the biggest gain in orders, and we are hoping by Fall of 2021 we can resume operations at full capacity.

Tell us about the new website!


During late Spring of 2020, while working from home, we decided to focus on the future by building a new website from the ground up. This process was done between many people collaborating from their makeshift home offices. We wanted more than a fresh new look. We wanted a better browsing and purchasing experience. Our new web platform allows us to make immediate changes, so look for new product and new product pictures in the near future.

What is your best seller?


The first product made by Hollinger Metal Edge was the document case, better known as The Hollinger Box. This product today, in legal and letter size, continues to be our best seller. Of course, no Hollinger Box is complete without Hollinger File Folders.

How, if at all, will Hollinger change after the previous “unique” year?


As a small business, we have a better understanding of how essential our employees, vendors and customers are to us. Though the world is big, we operate in a small cottage industry where self-reliance is omnipotent. The phrase “thank you for your order” has a new-found significance.

Archival institutions working towards environmental sustainability

By Anicka Austin, Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, SGA Blog Contributor

Dr. Melanie L. Harris starts off her book “Ecowomanism: African American Women and Earth- Honoring Faiths” by describing her mother’s garden, which is always in bloom. It reminds me of my favorite things about Spring when she writes, “gazing at bees already humming at my mother’s roses, I noticed that we all seem to be singing the same song. Even the color of the roses added a melodic tune.”

From this introduction to her family, Dr. Harris goes on to describe the first step of ecowomanism, which is to access our individual and collective ecomemories. How did we get here? Although the word “sustainability” is now in our collective vocabulary, there is a history of faith-based practices by African diasporic women that extends well-beyond our contemporary understandings of environmental justice (Harris, 2017). The legacy that Dr. Harris describes is extensive. She says, “the parallel between the colonization of the earth and the colonization of black and African bodies throughout the history of the transatlantic slave trade up to the present is an important theme in ecowomanist thought.”

History plays a major part in how we shift action and conversation around sustainability. This is one reason why the work of archivists and memory workers is directly related to our environment. Ben Goldman (2017) encourages archivists to steward collections that tell stories that are “fundamentally more respectful of our environment”. Senior Collection Archivist and Chair of Rose Library’s Sustainability Committee, Laura Starratt, notes that Rose Library is a major collector of political and social activism. She says, “we hold many collections focused on social justice, which relates directly to the conversations on environmental sustainability.  Holding these collections, but not addressing how we are actively contributing to climate change would be an ethical conflict.” In fact, one of the collections at Rose is that of Alice Walker, who’s work provides a basis for Dr. Harris’ ecowomanism method. However, as Starratt mentions, there is tension between collecting and acting in the best interest of the environment and the Sustainability Committee at Rose is examining ways to reduce collecting. Even as we advocate for collecting the records of “people who are deeply observant of their communities” (Goldman, 2017), we also know that collecting less may be more beneficial to the environment than acquiring more.

With that in mind, acknowledging history is not just about collecting. Institutions could acknowledge the history of the land on which their archival repository resides. The ecohistory of Emory is tied to how the land in Dekalb County, Georgia was acquired. In the land acknowledgement developed by Professor Craig Womack and Professor Debra Vidali, it is noted that “Emory University was founded in 1836, during a period of sustained oppression, land dispossession, and forced removals of Muscogee (Creek) and Ani’yunwi’ya (Cherokee) peoples from Georgia and the Southeast.” Emory, like other academic institutions, relied on the labor and land of indigenous and African people. With this and ecowomanism in mind, it matters that conversations around environmental sustainability are nuanced and diverse. In recognizing old narratives and creating new ones, Dr. Harris notes that “as a first methodological step to ecowomanism, mining ecomemory simultaneously pushes back, critiquing traditional forms of environmental history that leave out the histories of peoples of color, and pushes forward social justice commitments to be incorporated within the environmental movement.”

Finally, archival institutions can address how we are collecting that history and the legacy we want to leave behind through our process. Starratt talks about how the materials we use reflect our commitment to sustainable archival practices:

We can also look for options to reuse.  We should be looking for ways to reuse what we already have.  The boxes may have writing on them or not be the right color, but they can still hold materials…. Recycling means more than just having bins in our spaces for paper, aluminum, or glass.  We should ensure that we are not buying single use plastic or Styrofoam.  This is a common packing material for archives, but there are options.  We should also be insisting that the people and organizations we work with refrain from using these materials.  We should only buy recycled paper for our printers (and continue to reduce how much we print).

Rose Library’s Sustainability Committee has been advocating for some changes that might help other libraries in their commitment to sustainable practices.  According to Starratt, “the committee was set up in 2018 by then Digital Archivist, Dorothy Waugh with goals including creating a culture of sustainability, developing green habits, and building resiliency.”

Some of the committee’s successes are in line with practices Jan Zastrow (2019) supports as ways to move towards greater sustainability. She mentions supporting research projects with environmental themes, selecting conference venues that have made commitments to sustainability and going to conferences remotely to offset our collective carbon footprint. We have all been going to conferences remotely for the most part (due to covid-19, of course) but the sustainability committee at Rose aims to take further steps. Having a zoom option for all meetings is becoming normalized, as to encourage teleworking after pandemic restrictions lift.  Rose Library has also received a Silver Level Green Office certification from Emory University.

Acknowledging history and creating a legacy that reflects care for the environment can allow for more nuanced and diverse conversations about sustainability. For more resources to help sustainability efforts in archives visit Archivists Against History Repeating Itself and Archivists Responding to Climate Change.

References:

Goldman, Ben (2017 May 13). “Things the grandchildren should know: Archives and the origin of an ecocentric future”. Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene Colloquim, New York.

Harris, Melanie L. (2017). Ecowomanism: African American women and earth-honoring faiths. Orbis Books, New York.

Interview with Laura Starratt, Senior Collection Archivist at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (17 May 2021)

Womack, Craig & Vidali, Debra. Native American and Indigenous Engagement at Emory. “Land Acknowledgement and History Statement”. https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/nae/land-acknowledgement/

Zastrow, Jan (2019). “Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action in Libraries and Archives.” The Digital Archivist: Trends in Curation and Digital Preservation for Special Collections.

Safely Storing Your Art

By Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor

Please welcome Tricia Miller, Head Registrar at the Georgia Museum of Art, based at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Georgia Museum of Art

Tricia Miller has a Masters in Art History from the University of South Carolina, with a concentration in what was then called “Applied Art History.” She says her first paid job was as Director of the Stanly County Historic Preservation Commission in Albemarle, North Carolina (now the Stanly County Museum). Along with two other employees, they did everything from exhibition development, to collections management and sometimes even cleaning duties. She says that job taught her the aspects of museum work that she was good at and enjoyed and what aspects she struggled with or did not enjoy. Her next job was as assistant registrar at the Georgia Museum of Art. She moved up the ranks at GMOA to associate registrar and then to head registrar, and has been with GMOA for 22 years.

Miller estimates that approximately 2% of the 17,000-plus objects are on display, which leaves the problem of storing the rest. As she points out, it is not just about public display, but the storage and preservation of holdings for future generations.

“Institutions with some financial resources to put towards storage of art and the space to handle it may want to look into some standard museum quality storage units. Depending on your objects (framed works or sculpture, or even furniture) your basic options are rolling/sliding racks, bins, cabinets, or shelving. For framed objects rolling/sliding racks (for hanging storage) or metal bins (storage units with vertical slots for storing framed works side by side) are your best option. For small sculptures or other objects (pottery, baskets, silver, etc.) museum quality cabinets with slide out drawers are your best option. For larger items like furniture or larger sculptural items, you may consider industrial, powder-coated metal shelving from industrial supply companies.”

If, like so many of us, you have little cash or perhaps even storage limitations, perhaps you can start small:

“Nobody’s art storage is perfect and we all have something we can improve, even in most museums. My mission each year is to take the resources available to me (money, labor, time) and try improve the storage situation for as many objects as I can. It probably won’t ever be totally perfect, but I know I’ve improved the situation for some objects each year. “

Miller suggests using industrial cardboard bin boxes for storage, which can be purchased from industrial supply companies such as Uline or Grainger in various sizes. Line the bottom of the box with another piece of cardboard or foam-core (for extra stability) and place the framed works vertically in the box side by side. A good rule of thumb is, front-to-front and back-to back. The hardware on the back of frames can damage the front of another frame or the surface of a painting, so by placing them back to back you can avoid unnecessary damage. It is also a good idea to place a piece of cardboard between the frames which are face to face to protect them from rubbing against each other. Keep in mind that many framed works together in a box can become heavy and difficult to move, so consider using more numerous smaller bin boxes rather than fewer large ones. If possible, keep the boxes elevated off the floor, if you can do that safely. Also, you may want to cover the open tops with plastic to avoid dust accumulation and it serves as protection in the event of a crisis situation such as a water leak from a pipe. Avoid wrapping the frames in bubble wrap. As it deteriorates over time, bubble wrap will damage the painted or gilded surface of frames, sticking to it or leaving permanent marks in the surface.

Miller shares the following tips for art that you may have hanging or otherwise on display:

  • If possible, avoid hanging art near heating/cooling vents or above water fountains. The direct flow of conditioned air onto a work of art over the years will possibly make it crack or buckle, any source of water is a potential hazard for works of art.
  • Avoid hanging works of art near windows or in areas where they will get direct sunlight. We know the impact of direct sunlight on paper, and it can eventually have an impact on paintings as well.
  • If possible, avoid hanging works of art in places where other objects (furniture in public areas or other items in storage) may be accidentally pushed up against the work of art. Also, think about the height of a person’s head when they are sitting in a chair or on a bench over which a framed work of art might hang.
  • If possible, avoid hanging works of art in areas where food and drink are prepared or served. It is amazing how food and drink particles can travel through the air! Grease can fly, and carbonated drinks have a potentially wide spray factor when opened.
  • If possible, avoid hanging works of art near pipes, fire suppression sprinkler heads, vents or any other source of water or potential condensation. One of the biggest threats to museum collections is not theft, but water.

Some links to bin box choices:

https://www.uline.com/BL_412/Bulk-Cargo-Containers?keywords=Cardboard+Bin+Boxes

https://www.grainger.com/search/packaging-shipping/shipping-boxes-pads-tubes/shipping-boxes/bulk-cargo-gaylord-containers-lids?tv_optin=true&searchQuery=bulk+shipping+box&searchBar=true&suggestConfigId=6

Regularly tour your storage spaces, looking for potential problems. What is the art leaning against, or what is leaning against it? What is around the art and what is moving around it-is it in a main thoroughfare? And, what can you do to mitigate the risks?

One of the biggest risks for paintings in non-museum storage is damage to the surface of the work either by puncture or abrasion from another object. Consider putting paintings in a container, if possible, such as the bin boxes mentioned above. If the object is too large to go in a container, there may be other options. Large paintings can be faced with a piece of cardboard (the size of the frame) and wrapped in plastic. The cardboard provides some protection from impact on the front and the plastic provides overall protection from potential water damage. Before you wrap the painting, take a picture, print it, and tape to the cardboard (under the plastic) so you can identify the object while it is stored. Additionally, a moving blanket over a piece of furniture can provide some level of protection and help to avoid the accidental scrape or mishap.

Many thanks to Tricia Miller for her time and to Hillary Hazel Brown for the building photograph. The Georgia Museum of Art, on the campus of the University of Georgia, is both an academic museum and, since 1982, the official art museum of the state of Georgia. The permanent collection consists of American paintings, primarily 19th- and 20th-century; American, European and Asian works on paper; the Samuel H. Kress Study Collection of Italian Renaissance paintings; and growing collections of southern decorative arts and Asian art.
https://georgiamuseum.org/

2021 Summer Workshop: The Education Opportunity – Primary Sources and Context in the K-12 Classroom

Thursday, July 8, 2021, 1:00-4:00 PM (EST)

Virtual workshop on Zoom

Registration: $25

This workshop is for archivists and custodians of primary source materials who wish to increase the visibility and sound use of their holdings to educators. Participants will engage with multiple primary sources from a single collection to learn how to connect archival literacy with the creation of turnkey resources for educators. This workshop will help custodians of primary sources think critically about their collections as they relate to state education curriculum standards and broaden their potential K-12 audience. Participants will learn of unique strategies and resources currently applied in the classroom from the teachers who are currently using them as a means to foster discussion regarding how archival outreach might be enhanced at the K-12 level.    

Instructor: Amanda Smith, Jena Sibille, Mike Santrock

Register here