This two-part text opens with an argument few collections practitioners would contest: Regular inventories are central to meaningful, sustainable, and ethical collections preservation and access. But Vanderwarf and Romanowski argue that in practice—some 25 years working with diverse collections between them—inventories are uncommon: instead of functioning as a commonplace feature of collections care, they tend to be evoked as a last resort when a museum has lost control of its collection.
Part I offers a flexible project management framework that illustrates strategies for reining in control of collections now. From identifying objectives that best serve the collection in question to securing stakeholder support and planning time and resources, Part I eliminates some guesswork around what may be an unprecedented and intensive project. To maintain the benefits of a project-style inventory, the authors then encourage practitioners to embrace inventory as an ongoing, evolving collections care function that reflects changing professional values and expectations from the communities museums serve. By centering computerized databases, barcoding, and digital collections, the authors further acknowledge these technologies as permanent, evolving features of collections and inventory practice that merit increased resourcing.
Part II gives voice to practitioners around the world through case studies that affirm the vital role of inventories in regaining control of collections. Some of these inventories occurred during the course of everyday work, while others were responses to natural disasters and armed conflict. Still others may be seen as expressions of social justice. As much as the authors offer a guide to performing inventories, thereby filling a longstanding gap in the literature, they invite cultural heritage institutions to rethink how the stories held in collections can be better told and preserved through enhanced inventory practice.
The book will benefit seasoned museum collections practitioners as well as those who lack access to formal museology education and training. The book targets stewards of cultural heritage and material culture collections with varying resources
Sandra Vanderwarf earned an M.A. in conservation from Fashion Institute of Technology and a B.A. in criminal justice from John Jay College. Inventory illustrates one way these disciplines have converged during her 15 years of practice in cultural heritage preservation. Most recently, in collaboration with National Museum of Mongolia and the U.S. Department of State, she provided expertise to enhance inventory protocols as part of Mongolia's self-determined strategy to deter unlawful trafficking and sale of heritage. Prior to that, her seasoned perspective was honed through intersecting roles of conservator, registrar, and collections manager at a corporate archive, the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History, and Brooklyn Children's Museum. Sandra's varied contributions--as inventory taker, author of winning (and rejected) inventory grant proposals, inventory project manager, and researcher referencing historic inventories--engendered a multi-faceted appreciation for inventory. Her presentations at CIDOC-ICOM'S International Committee for Documentation, the Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists, and through continued partnerships with the U.S. Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation have emphasized the significance of inventory as preventive conservation.
Bethany Romanowski is head registrar at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. She holds a B.A. in anthropology from Indiana University and an M.A. in social sciences from the University of Chicago. She has over fifteen years' experience managing collections at New York City institutions, including the South Street Seaport Museum and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Bethany recently oversaw the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s first wall-to-wall inventory of tangible collections.
Part I: Executing Project-style Inventories
Chapter 1. Centering Inventories in Museum Practice
Chapter 2. Creating an Inventory Project Roadmap
Chapter 3. Identifying Inventory Objectives
Chapter 4. Winning Support for the Inventory
Chapter 5. Defining the Deliverables
Chapter 6. Deliverables Spotlight: Inventory Data and Databases
Chapter 7. Planning the Activities and Timelines
Chapter 8. Estimating Resource Needs
Chapter 9. Executing the Inventory
Chapter 10. Staying on Track
Chapter 11. Closing the Inventory
Chapter 12. Barcoding to Enhance Inventory Performance
Chapter 13. Inventorying Digital Collections
Part II: Inventories in Action
Case A. A Pan-Institutional Approach to Audiovisual Collection Inventories Alison Reppert Gerber
Case B. Inventory and Cataloging Project at the Museum of Danish America Angela Stanford
Case C. Gazing into the Abyss and Demystifying the First Comprehensive Inventory Britta Keller Arendt
Case D. Migrating An Archaeological Collection Catalog To Collective Access Destiny Crider
Case E. Bringing It Together: First Institution-wide Special Collections Inventory at the New York Public Library Research Libraries Rebecca Fifield
Case F. Recapturing Collections: Inventory at the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Dawn R. Roberts
Case G. From Hobbyists To Professionals:A Case Study at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures Calleen Carver and Geoff Woodcox
Case H. Running From The Wrecking Ball: Inventory In Response To DisasterGina Irish
Case I. Your History, Your Museum: Bringing Meaning To Chaos At Hennepin History Museum Heather Hoagland
Case J. Blood, Sweat, and Tears: A Collections Inventory Story at the American Swedish Institute Inga Theissen
Case K. From Storage Boxes to Research Options: Cataloging Ancient Mural Fragments at ASU’s Research Lab in Teotihuacan, Mexico Kristine F. Clark
Case L. Helping Heritage Survive: An Inventory Project in Post-War Kosovo Helen Merrett, Alex Cantrill-Lankester and Miriam Orsini
Case M. I’ve Seen It All – Inventory at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Jennifer Noffze
Case N. Inventory at the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute Laura Phillips
Case O. Inventory Interrupted: Turning a Challenge into an Opportunity Linda Endersby
Case P. The First Full Inventory and Cataloguing of the Collection of the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art Matthew Clouse
Case Q. Stealth Inventories at the TECHNOSEUM Angela Kipp
Case R. Venturing into New Territory: Inventorying Born Digital Objects in the AIGA Design Archives at the Denver Art Museum Kate Moomaw
Aimed at practitioners such as registrars and collections managers in museums, historical societies, archives, and other collections-based institutions, Vanderwarf and Romanowski’s volume conveys the significance of inventories as the backbone of heritage documentation. They address the value of inventories as the key method for gaining physical and intellectual control of collections, but also point to them as only one facet of collections care. The book is divided into two sections, "Executing Project-Style Inventories" and "Inventories in Action." Seeing inventories as an ongoing, evolving collections-care function, the authors underscore the ways in which the term “inventory” is understood as both a noun and a verb. Many of the chapters include bibliographies, notes, and illustrations. The volume will interest those involved in curatorial studies, museology, heritage management, historical administration, archival studies, and related fields. Recommended. Professionals.
Inventories are foundational to effective collections stewardship yet are so often overshadowed by competing needs within an institution, and planning for them can seem daunting, especially given the dearth of professional literature that focuses specifically on inventories. This book provides critical support to collections professionals by helping them craft compelling arguments for administration about the importance of inventories and by helping them create an inventory plan, both through general advice on tools, resources, timelines, and deliverables, and also through extensive case studies involving a variety of collection types. I wish that I had such a helpful resource when planning past inventories but am thrilled to be able to use it when planning future ones!