Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Inventory Quagmire

I've found that I use the word "quagmire" I lot in my work. Like, "I can't even think about the flag quagmire right now," or "no one wants to vacuum that rack because it is just a quagmire of ruffles."


The existence of any quagmires in the collection is basically due to having an overwhelming amount of stuff. As I've mentioned before, museums are like icebergs. What you see on display is just a visible nugget of a hidden behemoth. MOHAI went through a long period where we took everything offered to us, and the sheer volume of stuff often makes my head spin.

It is most common to wander unknowingly into a quagmire during inventory. Most of the time inventory is pretty fun because you get to discover things in the collection that no one has looked at in years. Sometimes you can get a good pace going and maybe get through a couple boxes or even a couple shelves in one day. But then you open a nightmare box and BOOM you are stuck working on it for weeks.


What makes a box a quagmire is one or more of the following issues:
-Items are small and the box is packed full
-Box is disorganized, items are in poor condition, and it is difficult to locate numbers
-The box is full of FICs and items that aren't already listed in the database, so you are creating completely new records as you go.

Right now I am in a quagmire of baby caps.

The thing is, individually most of these are quite delightful. Most are handmade and are beautiful examples of home crochet, knitting, tatting, lacemaking, and sewing. They are each different and I can see why someone thought they were worth saving, and why a museum might be an appropriate place.

But I think this box I'm working on right now must have 60 little caps in it. Opening it for the first time felt like:

When you look at the box as a whole, there are just stacks and stacks of flat little white caps. And it is box 1 of 3 in the baby hat section. That is TOO MANY CAPS!!!!!!!


  1. Wow, this post ... this post spoke to my soul in a lot of ways.

    1. I think that last GIF alone sums up what collections work feels like!