Friday, February 22, 2008

About our blog

Preserving Our Past is a blog produced by volunteers of Destination Cleveland County.

DCC’s mission is to unite the history, heritage, culture, and arts of Cleveland County, N. C., to create a vibrant economy via cultural tourism – “embracing the future and preserving the past.”
As part of that, DCC’s History Committee has committed to undertake the inventorying and organization of the thousands of historical artifacts remaining at the old courthouse building at the center of downtown Shelby, N.C. The artifacts were collected there – many donated by local citizens – for a former museum now closed.

Those of us engaged in this Historic County Courthouse Collection Preservation Project are finding the work challenging, stimulating, a little dusty, and downright fun. It’s a pleasure to join with other volunteers on courthouse workdays in discovering and documenting treasures of the past – from the mundane to the momentous.

We hope this blog will be a dialogue. We will share news and events, perspectives, and stories about our volunteers and other helpers, what we are finding, and the bits of history we uncover. We hope you will provide us comments and stories, too. And if you’d like to take part in DCC’s projects, please telephone 704.487.6233 for information about becoming involved as a volunteer.

Sherry Grenier and Millie Wood of Shelby, N. C., are co-chairs of the History Committee, and Pat Poston of Kings Mountain, N. C., is administrator/editor and a contributing writer for this blog. From time to time, other volunteers will contribute postings as well. Our Blog Team will welcome your comments and suggestions. Contact us at

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Project inventories, organizes artifacts

An estimated 10,000 historical artifacts such as those laid out here belong to Cleveland County’s people. They are located in the former county courthouse building standing in the center of Shelby, N. C.

Dusty and silent, they’ve been locked away for years since the former historical museum housed there was closed. Its handwritten accession registers list a bit of their history – who donated them, when, and sometimes a hint of their significance.

County governmental leaders have taken what steps they could to protect the artifacts. For instance, they’ve seen that the old courthouse roof is in good repair, to avoid water leak damage, and kept on the lights and necessary heat and air.

And now, through a community effort, work is underway to inventory, organize, and care for the artifacts (both objects and archives/documents), toward a day they tell their stories once again.

The History Committee of Destination Cleveland County (DCC) has undertaken a voluntary project with the overarching mission:

To preserve, inventory, and provide access to every object and archive in the historic county courthouse for the citizens of Cleveland County and all other interested parties.

The work of the committee is addressing some serious objectives:

--Ensuring proper care and management of the collection of artifacts, which might be in jeopardy and deteriorate without attention.

--Identifying and inventorying these historical treasures that belong to Cleveland County's citizens.

--Providing ways for citizens to have access to these artifacts, now closed away unseen.

The not-for-profit DCC envisions a time when the artifacts are not only properly preserved but also undergird exhibits, interactive displays, and educational programming in the historic courthouse building revitalized as the Earl Scruggs Center – Stories and Songs of the Carolina Foothills. Another goal is to computerize photographs or scans of all artifacts, with cataloguing details about them, so they can readily be viewed and located. And to eventually enlarge the public’s access to them by “virtual museum” on the Internet.

Inventorying and preparing items for proper storage are the first steps in this major undertaking. These steps have been underway since August 2006 and quite likely will take many months more.

The History Committee engaged professional expertise to help it plan and organize the detailed inventorying processes for objects and archives. At their center is a museum-standard cataloguing methodology, and at their heart is a growing group of volunteers who turn out for Saturday “workdays” at the old courthouse.

On a typical workday, a volunteer might report at 9:00 am, pick up a stack of Object Catalog Worksheet forms and a sharp pencil, choose an artifact from the “to be processed” box, and set out to document it by filling in as many of the 22 blanks on the form as possible. With luck, the artifact will have an accession number on it and a record of its source or donor can be found in the former museum’s handwritten registers. The volunteer documents that, but goes further and assigns the item its proper museum standard classification – sort of like the standard way libraries classify books. Then comes detailed description – how the item looks, its dimensions, its color, its maker and provenance (if known), its condition, and more. Then it’s on to the next object.

Completed forms are turned in to be computerized by another volunteer, using Past Perfect museum collection management software.

Once documented, objects are temporarily prepared for storage and organized in the old courtroom upstairs, laid out on benches according to classification. When plans for the building’s renovation proceed, the artifacts will be taken offsite for safety.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Detailed processes used for inventory

Several process steps are involved in inventorying the two types of artifacts in the historic county courthouse collection – those that are “objects” and those that are “archives” (typically paper documents).

Process for objects

--An Object Catalog Worksheet with 22 items to note for each object is completed in as much detail as possible for proper inventory purposes.

--Using the number which should be affixed to each item, the object is referenced to the original acquisition registers used in the former Cleveland County Historical Museum. If there is information in the register beyond accession number, date, and donor, that additional information is added to the Worksheet.

--Each object is referenced to the original nomenclature used in the former museum to identify classification and object name. In addition, the now-standard classification and name are looked up in reference works and identified on the Worksheet.

--The individual completed Worksheet for each object is placed in a notebook, grouped by the years in which the objects were acquired by the former museum and placed in accession number order.

--Each object whose Worksheet is completed is placed upstairs in the former courtroom in groups according to their classification.

--A photograph is taken of each object with the accession number of the object visible. A back-up copy of each photograph is stored on a disk.

--Each object’s Worksheet information is inputted into a computer with the assistance of Past Perfect (museum collection software) for further reference, location, and identification.

--Photographs are uploaded into the Past Perfect software for further reference and identification.

--Each object is properly stored with regard to the specific preservation need (e.g., acid-free paper).

Process for archives

--Each archive is to be identified in detail and stored in an acid-free folder. Each folder will be placed in a box according to the subject of the archive. Each box will have a list of the archives with the name and description of each archive.

--Each archive’s information will be inputted into the Past Perfect software.

--A scan of each archive will be completed and uploaded into the Past Perfect software. A backup copy of each archive will be stored on a disk.

--Each archive will be properly stored with regard to specific preservation need (e.g., acid-free folders, box off of floor).

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