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Ever wonder what happens after you donate an item or photo the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society? We recently had an inquiry about why photographs someone had donated some time ago have not made it to our online database. Unfortunately, that is something we have been trying to improve, but we currently have a collections backlog that includes several thousand individual items that we continue to work through and add to the database. Scanning and entering the items into our database is just one part of the process.
Over the past few years, we have been able to make improvements to our collections care including:
  • adding climate controls (air conditioning & humidity) to our space at the Armory,
  • physically expanding our offsite collections storage area by adding over 200 square feet and transferring the artifact boxes to rolling shelving units to make them more manageable,
  • transferring ten rolling units from our collections area at the armory to the new space to create a better work station for measuring, photographing and documenting artifacts as they are accessioned, and
  • transferring our collections database to a new, more user-friendly system that is being supported (the old system had become obsolete) which included file migration and data clean-up for the approximately 9,000 items currently in the system.
Throughout all of this we have received several large archival donations consisting of more than twenty boxes of files, photographs and other materials and eight large cabinets of artifacts along with the increased volume of donations that have come in throughout Covid as people have been sorting and downsizing. With only two full-time staff members to cover all of our programming and activities, and the limited opportunity for volunteers to do the data entry and scanning required, especially over the last couple of years, it is a slow process.
Collections care is a priority for the WBLAHS and we are currently working on several initiatives including:
  • a grant request that would enable us to hire two collections assistants in 2023. This would help with at least an inventory of the items that have not been fully catalogued to date. That would mean a title, object id number, photo/scan and donor information entered into the system, at a minimum, which would allow us to upload those items to the database for public access.
  • A long-term plan to add collections and program staff to focus on collections processing and ongoing care as well as utilizing those photos, artifacts and other materials to help tell the stories of our community.
One of our recent success stories is the addition of 26 oral histories to our website. Little by little it all will get there. But please be assured that even if it is not yet on our online database we can help you in-person with a research appointment at the Armory. We love being able to connect people to the history of our area and are happy to help!