Saturday, March 1, 2008

Professionals provide expertise, enthusiasm

Laura Overbey, left, of Asheville and Lenore Hardin of Hendersonville are professional collections managers lending not only their considerable expertise but also their warm enthusiasm and good cheer to the DCC project to preserve the collection of historical artifacts in Cleveland County’s old courthouse building.

Engaged as consultants for the project, the two also guide and back up volunteers reporting for Saturday workdays spent inventorying and organizing objects and archives. With a processing plan and system in place, the work continues to pick up speed.

“Collections management” takes place well behind the polished display cases, intriguing exhibits, and lively programming of museums and historical places, but it’s crucial to them. According to Laura and Lenore, “managing” starts with identifying what you have and cataloging it properly and extends through proper storage and accessible location. Ongoing are preservation and stabilization of objects against deterioration. “Putting your eyes on things,” Laura says. “Taking care of and organizing wonderful objects,” Lenore adds. And, oh yes, dealing with pests from mice to moths to carpet beetles. And disaster planning….

Laura and Lenore are good coaches. (For example, the volunteers now speak “accession numbers” and standard museum classifications, and they slip on white cotton gloves to handle metal so as not to leave a trace of print behind.) And hard workers. They take objects volunteers have catalogued upstairs to the old courtroom, preparing them for proper storage and organizing them by category along the courtroom’s long benches. Once the inventory is complete, the items will be moved offsite for storage while the building is renovated.

Laura, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Tennessee, started her career in Knoxville at the Blount Mansion. She later worked at the East Tennessee Historical Society, where she says her most nerve-wracking job was handling Davy Crockett’s rifle.

Lenore, who first started work in the field seven years ago, was a double major in studio art and anthropology – with a minor in museum studies – at the State University of New York – College at Potsdam. She got her start at the Adirondack Museum in upstate New York, which has a large collection of historical boats (used on the hundreds of natural lakes in the Adirondacks) and features local mountain history.

Contributor: Pat Poston

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