Archives Moment: Donating photos and other cultural heritage materials

The Musée Héritage Museum often receives donations of cultural heritage materials from the general public.   These donations go through a specific process, in this blog we would like to share the donation process with you.

How does the Musée decide whether we add a donation to our collection?

When you come to donate items to our museum, we will gather information from you to help us decide whether your items fit our collection policy mandate. We collect items that pertain to St. Albert and region, or have what we call provenance, to ensure a connection to St. Albert.

Before accessioning a donation into the collection we ask some of the following questions… Is the donation unique? Do we already have this item in our collections? Do we have the resources to care of the donation? In what physical state is the donation? Are there any restrictions on the donation that might make it impossible for the public to use?

After you meet with us, a committee meets and makes the decision on whether to add a donation to the collections. If we feel the donation is better suited for another institution, we will help the donor make that connection. When items are accepted we send the donor a letter to let them know that the donation has been added to the collections.

The best way to help us decide before you bring your item to us is take a photo of your item, or a scan of your photo, and email it to us with descriptions of the items so that we can begin to do some research. If we cannot decide , based on the photos sent in, we may ask you to bring the item in for us to view in person to help us decide. If you happen to drop into the museum with an item, we would be happy to look at it as well.

What happens to a donation after it is accepted?

Once the committee decides to accept a donation, we catalogue information about the object and/or archival materials. We then take necessary measures to ensure that the new addition to the collection will last for as long as possible – we slow down any deterioration by preserving items to the best of our ability. Once the information is catalogued, we can make the new addition to the collections available for public use. Yes, the public can see what is in our collections, just ask us!

What topics are the Musée interested in collecting on?

When it comes to archival materials, we are interested in all sorts of documentary heritage, such as scrapbooks, ledgers, letters, electronic files, film or video footage, etc. Among all these items, photographs are probably the most requested items from our patrons. Photographs are certainly one of the more cherished archival materials by families and memories institutions such as our museum. As mentioned in the video above, we don’t limit ourselves in what topics we collect on, however we do have some ideas that might help you decide whether you want to donate any materials to us.

 

We are always interested in photos or other archival materials or artifacts related to families that have a long history in our region. If you visit the museum exhibitions, or view any of our historic buildings, you will almost always find stories of people from our area. This includes people who helped build our community and places in it, and those who have long lineage to our area. We are also interested in photos of people during their day-to-day life, not just portraits. So, if you have photos of family gatherings, barbecues, family game nights, etc., these are all interesting aspects of community life we are interested in gathering. You never know, perhaps fifty years from now some of these images may become prominent in our museum to showcase the life of today.

 

 

 

We also did a call out last year for any photos from your pandemic experience. We are living in a historic point in time. Often in these significant eras, only the voices of a few are recorded. We feel it is important to capture the experiences of all people. That is why we have asked for any photos or other items you may have, along with a write up of your experiences of the pandemic, to add to our archives. We have received some interesting submissions so far, but we are interested in gaining more from our citizens, so please click on the link in this paragraph to add your story.

Significant buildings is another major topic of interest. As seen in the video above, our museum is doing an exhibition in 2022 on the iconic Bruin Inn that was in St. Albert for over 70 years. So we are in the process of gathering items for this exhibition. Our museum produces many exhibitions every year and we always incorporate archival materials in them. Stay tuned to our museum website for upcoming exhibitions to give you an idea of what we will be doing in the future and what you may perhaps have to offer that could be placed in the exhibitions.

 

Other topics includes sports, major events in our city you may have attended, and recreation. And it doesn’t have to be only photos you think about, perhaps there is an artifact from your life that may be of significant to St. Albert’s history. For example, in older sports photos we see sweaters and jerseys worn by the players. We add these types of clothing that relates to our sports history, including materials from current teams, clubs, and groups in St. Albert today.

 

So, while you are fall-cleaning and thinking about donating to a museum and/or archives, keep us in mind – we would love to see and learn the stories of your treasures. If you want to learn more about the types of things we have in the archives or our artifact collections to help determine what we would be interested in, please feel free to contact us at 780-459-1528 or archives@artsandheritage.ca.