Other Duties as Assigned: What I Really Do Every Day as a Curatorial and Interpretation Member with ACE at Saint Gaudens National Historic Park
Written By: Emily Counts
Some aspects of my role happen on a regular basis. For instance, Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings are reserved for inventory! The park is working on completing its annual inventory of a select group of objects, and eventually working towards updating a 100% inventory of the entire park’s collection. As such, 8 hours a week is dedicated to inventory around the park. Inventory is always a two-person job, to ensure accountability, so I usually work with our museum technician, Jamie. Typically, one person finds the catalog number on the object and reads it aloud to the other, who finds it on our paper list of inventoried items, and checks it off. Then, we make note of any damages and if the object was found where the catalog says it lives. Later, we will take our paper notes and input them into our museum catalogue database.
Housekeeping is another task that happens regularly at the park. SAGA consists of several historic buildings that serve as exhibit spaces, as well as the historic house museum. All of these spaces and objects on display require regular housekeeping to prevent the need for conservation down the line. We dust and vacuum in the historic spaces every 2-4 weeks, depending on our schedule and when the spaces are open to the public. A more thorough deep cleaning happens semiannually. Housekeeping also allows us to see all the objects on display and make note of any new damage or worsening conditions of the collections or buildings. When handling museum objects in any capacity, you want to remove all jewelry, watches, buckles, nametags, etc that may scratch or otherwise damage an object. Also, you typically use gloves over clean, washed hands to avoid leaving behind any oils, and to protect both you and the object.
Another regular activity in the curatorial department is pest management, which is largely accomplished by monitoring the types of pests caught in traps in storage and exhibit spaces and making note of any concerning numbers or species. These then get entered into a database, so that we can track trends over time. Along with environmental monitoring (the keeping track of temperature, relative humidity, and light quality in exhibit and storage spaces), pest management helps ensure the longevity of the park’s collections. Both of these happen monthly, usually on the first day/first Monday of the month (Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the picture on this one).
Visitor Services and Interpretation
Because I serve on both the curatorial and interpretation teams at SAGA, I have designated time with each team. Usually, Wednesdays I work with interpretation, along with some Thursdays and the occasional pop-up event. A standard day in interpretation involves serving at the kiosk in the park parking lot to greet and direct visitors to the Visitor’s Center and promote the day’s activities. I also spend time at Aspet, the historic house museum, giving informal tours and answering visitor questions about the history of the home and the park. Sometimes I assist with guided tours and school groups, and other times I work on developing outreach material for social media, the website, and future interpretive programming. Other interpretation day activities include unlocking and locking all of the buildings at the beginning and end of the day, respectively, and roving the park to help guide visitors and answer questions.
Other Curatorial Duties
As with any job, the bulk of my time is spent on the “everything else” category that is less easily defined. I have worked on digitizing the park’s image collection in response to interpretive or research requests. I have conducted research within the collections to respond to external research inquiries. I have completed condition reports for incoming objects and objects being placed on display. I have been working on putting together a temporary future exhibit in conjunction with the interpretation team, as well as conducting research on areas of the park’s history that are lacking on the website. I have been enjoying cataloging and labeling the curatorial reference library and doing general organization of the collections and workrooms. There’s always something new to do when working in a museum!