Spring-Cleaning and Donations

Spring is here, and many of us begin our spring-cleaning at this time of year.  Spring-cleaning as well as moving are times when the Musée receives donations.  So we thought to discuss donations.
If you decide to give us something you feel is valuable for the Musée, please come talk to us.  Joanne, the curator, can give you information about artifacts – so things like clothing, house wares, jewellery, tools and equipment, statuettes, etc.  Rene, the archivist, can help you with any recorded information you have – things like old photographs, scrapbooks, ledgers, letters, electronic files, etc.  But please talk to us.  We have had people abandon things at the front door of the museum or at the St. Albert Grain Elevator Park.  When things are abandoned, we really do not know what to do with them.  An important part of building our collection depends on the stories that come with the artifacts and archives.
We have an example of someone abandoning objects at the Musée.  One morning in August 2006, museum staff found a box of African artifacts left at the door of the museum.  Here are photographs of a few of the items…

We have no idea what the history of these items are, where they came from, the value of the objects or who dropped them off. We tried to get information on the objects by putting advertisements out in the newspapers.  Attempts were made to donate the items to other museums whose collecting mandate could include African objects.  Without any information about the abandoned items, no institutions wanted them.  So, nearly four years later, the pieces sit at the museum and we are unable to do anything with them.  And, the artifacts are not suited to our collecting mandate, unless they are somehow linked to St. Albert’s story – we just don’t know!
How does the Musée decide whether or not we add a donation to our collection?
When you come to donate items to the Musée, we will gather information from you to help us decide whether or not your items fit our collection policy.  We collect items that pertain to St. Albert and region.  Various other factors are considered as well.  Some questions include… 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 making it impossible for the public to use?
After you meet with us, a committee meets and makes the decision on whether or not to add the 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.
What happens to a donation after it is accepted?
Once the committee decides to accept a donation, we catalog 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 cataloged, 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!
So, while you are spring-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.