Collections 101: part 1

2014-02-001-open-caseHave you ever wondered, “what happens to an item when I donate it to a museum?” Well, you’re  in luck because that’s just what this post is tackling. Take a (geeky and technical, but hopefully not too boring) behind the scenes look at how objects are processed and join the Raupp Museum’s permanent collection and stored for future study and display.

The process starts with formally accepting an item.  The donor makes an offer, the museum accepts, and then the donor signs a document to legally transfer ownership. Signing a deed of gift creates a paper trail and establishes the item’s legal status for future inquiries or claims. The museum also takes notes on the item’s history and its owner.  An object has more cultural value when it is associated with a story or personal history. That being said, a museum must be a bit choosy about what it can accept into the collection.

Philosophically, an accepted item needs to reflect the museum mission statement and collecting priorities. It basically asks the question: “is it unique and how does it help tell the story of Buffalo Grove?” Otherwise, the museum would end up with duplicate items of questionable cultural value… like these telephone pole insulators. A single insulator might be a welcome addition to a collection, but a box of 56 has limited value.


The last consideration is purely practical of whether or not the museum can care for and adequately store an object over a long period of time. If we accepted everything brought to us, we’d run out of storage space and money to care for the collection.

After an item is accepted and signed off on, it gets tagged with a unique identification number and placed in quarantine (ie. my desk) for assessment. It does not go directly to storage until it’s been checked for pests or other undesirable qualities that may affect the rest of the collection. Here, the item is also measured and documented in the museum’s database for easy access. Once given a clean bill of health, it’s off to storage for glamour shots, permanent marking and wrapping. More on that coming soon…

Published by Raupp Museum

The Raupp Museum is a local history museum serving the community of Buffalo Grove, Illinois and surrounding areas. The museum's three galleries showcase Buffalo Grove's history from the early 1830s to the present. Educational programs are available for school groups, scout groups, and adult clubs.

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