Preserving the collection

As the collections registrar at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, my job is far more interesting than it sounds. We’re all familiar with museum exhibits, but in almost all cases this is only a portion of the museum’s permanent collection. The collection is exceedingly large and diverse, and it is my job to make sure items not currently on exhibit are well-organized, properly cared for, thoroughly documented, and made available for research and public interest purposes.

The Museum has been around since 1883 and in that time it has benefitted greatly from the generosity of a wide variety of scientists, researchers, collectors, and explorers who called the Monterey Peninsula home. In addition to the amazing collection of local flora, fauna and mineral specimens, we have natural and cultural objects from all over the world - from Ahom ceremonial weapons from India to meteorite fragments and Puebloan Native American pottery. 

One can imagine that such a large collection of unique objects requires quite a bit of attention to keep it in good order. I find myself fabricating storage methods to fit the needs of delicate objects, working to mitigate the effects of ambient light and environmental conditions on aging specimens or simply rearranging the collection space in order to make everything as accessible as possible while also keeping it safe from damage. 

The information age has revolutionized the way museums use their collections. It allows for objects, previously confined to collections storage to be viewed online by everyone. So, in addition to my regular collections duties, I am photographing and researching as much of our collection as possible for publication to our online database (http://www.pgmuseum.org/online-database/). 

As an endlessly curious polymath, I couldn’t ask for a more engaging and exciting working environment than the Museum. I make several fascinating discoveries every day, and it is good to know that I am working to preserve this one-of-a-kind collection for generations to come.