For Objects in a Collection, Documentation is Everything!

I’m a rising senior here at Wes, and last semester I had the amazing opportunity to work with Professor Wendi Field Murray in the Archaeology & Anthropology Collections (AAC) to build a tutorial centered around Museum Collections Care and Management. In the coming months, I will be sharing some of the lessons I learned.


An object without proper documentation becomes lost in time; if it cannot be matched with records, we risk losing key identifying information like its cultural affiliation, where the object came from geographically, and its age. Along these same lines, it’s important to be able to track changes in an object’s condition so that adjustments can be made for better/safer storage. All of the above is done through creating consistent records of the objects in our care.

During my tutorial I created a Condition Report template for the AAC, a worksheet that’s intended to record every minute detail about an object’s current condition like tears or fading in a material, missing beading, or corroding metal. Once filled out, these records can be stored and used as a future reference to monitor how an object is withstanding the test of time and what steps we can take to better preserve it.

One of my assignments was to use my template to document an incoming object to our collection, a Lakota tobacco pouch from South Dakota. The finished report will be kept on file to try to ensure that the object maintains the glory of its brightly colored quills and intricate beading for years to come. These images show the current state of the pouch and the storage solution I chose to minimize damage from handling (trays are perfect for this type of thing! Staff and students can observe the pouch without having to pick it up every time).

Check back in August to find out why I spent hours conducting independent research to familiarize myself with a range of insects. Silverfish have roamed the earth since the time of the dinosaurs – why does their presence matter to us in a museum collection?

˜ Brelynn McGloin (’22)