Historical Society begins downsizing

Published 10:36 am Thursday, October 25, 2012

It may not be time for spring cleaning, but the Mower County Historical Society doesn’t mind — especially when it’s tackling a project that could last through many springs to come.

About a dozen people came to each of several forums held earlier this month to hear more about the Historical Society’s deaccessioning project, which is beginning now and should last for years. The meetings explained why it is important to deaccession — or remove items from the collection to narrow its scope and make room for new materials, often through donation to other collections.

“There are some that had more concerns than others,” said Executive Director Dustin Heckman of those who attended the forums. “For a good majority, once they heard the presentation, they understood the process.”

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Several people had questions about specific items they or their family members had donated to the collection, Heckman said. They wanted to know whether those pieces would be deaccessioned.


“We don’t know,” he said. “No individual objects have had any determination put on them.”

Another popular question concerned the Historical Society’s practice of rotating certain items into storage. Forum goers wanted to know why the society can’t keep all of its materials on display.

“Things need to be moved out so that they can last longer than just being on display all the time,” Heckman said, adding it was a matter of best practices for museums.

Heckman said most people felt comfortable with the process after staff answered their questions.

Clearing the society’s extremely tight space is the main objective, Heckman said. The next step is to delve into the nuts and bolts of the process.

“We’re at the point where we’re starting to consider objects now,” Heckman said.

The process will be an enormous undertaking. While the staff estimates it will take a minimum of two years, other museums have told Heckman their projects took 12 years or longer.

When staff does finish, the Historical Society plans to keep the deaccessioning going on a much smaller scale.

“It’ll probably be something that’s consistently done,” he said.

In order for items to stay in the collection, they need to fall within the Historical Society’s mission statement, Heckman said. Items should also be relevant to what could be used in a future exhibit.

One of the Historical Society’s three staff members in particular will be handling most of the work evaluating the objects, but explanations and second opinions will help make sure nothing goes away without careful consideration.

“There’s quite a few steps and checks and balances to even get to the point of being considered for deaccessioning,” he said.

Though the forums are over, Heckman welcomes any other questions. To contact the Historical Society, email info@mowercountyhistory.org or call 507-437-6082.