International Archives Day - June 9, 2011

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June 9, 2011 is International Archives Day! Today we reach out to our community to remind them of the importance of archival collections, and to encourage them to learn through the study of the primary sources we preserve. We are celebrating this year with the debut of our blog, which will feature articles about the more interesting items in our collection.

What is an archivist?

Plenty of people ask: "What sorts of things are in the Archives, anyway? And what does an archivist do?" We do many things here in the museum's archives, but here is a recent example:


Part of an archivist's job is doing what we call holdings maintenance, which consists of checking in on objects periodically to be sure they are still in good shape. For instance, right now we are preparing our collections for our upcoming move to the Rocky Mountain Science Collections Center, which requires that we put objects in containers suitable for long-term storage.


In March 2011, the Archives team partnered with our colleagues in the Conservation department to preserve some of our textile artifacts. One of the items was a pair of mukluks worn by museum taxidermist Jack Putnam during his 1965 field expeditions to Alaska. Before this treatment, these objects had been sitting unsupported on a shelf, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag. Now they have been stuffed with cotton (which will keep the material from creasing) and were moved to sturdy archival boxes that will provide protection without giving off any gasses that might damage the fabric.

Why preserve shoes?

Why do we care about an old pair of shoes? These artifacts help tell the story of what goes on behind the scenes of the museum. The dioramas are fascinating, but so are the stories about how the specimens were collected, the personalities of those doing the work, and the process of how the dioramas were designed and built. Objects like these are a physical link to the museum's past, and - if properly cared for - will continue to educate scholars for many years to come.

Read more about the Conservation Department's preservation work here.

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