The Midpoint: Library Inventory and Artifact Packing

Written by: Morgan W. Valenzuela

March 22-April 23, 2021

Hazy clouds hang low over the mountains and the snow has turned to rain. Though the snow still sits heavy on the Dyea Townsite, on the Dyea flats water is flowing. From far off, it seems as if chunks of ice are being carried by the streaming water, but a closer look reveals pairs of migratory swans. Residents drive out to watch them, blue bird sightings abound, and everywhere, bird song fills the air.

Here in Skagway, spring is waking up and stretching itself slowly across land. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park witnesses and responds to this change in season. Natural Resources has conducted their usual springtime bird survey and staff across various divisions prepares for a group of new interpretation rangers. My projects from the winter months spill into the spring and while my work remains steady, progress has been made.

Low tide at Yukutania Point

It is with a great deal of delight and a small amount of surprise that I can announce the inventory of KLGO’s library complete – save for the two branch locations in the park which are currently inaccessible. Dyea’s branch library will become accessible first, but the small collection of items at Sheep Camp, the last campsite on the Chilkoot Trail before hikers reach the U.S.A./Canadian Border, will prove more challenging. The inventory is complete enough to prepare an End of Project Report, which outlines the project’s approach, method, findings, and recommendations. Completing the report was a bit of a challenge and the product I turned in may still require some revision as I’d like it to, at the very least, be of some use for whoever delves into library work at KLGO next.

Morgan in the archive, preparing to start the condition report for a disassembled wheelchair, which dates from the late 1800s.

I can’t say what day, or what week, even, that the buds began to appear or when the grass began to turn from brown to green. The month that this blog entry covers was primarily spent in an archive, in a room full of artifacts whose windows are covered in thick shades. Even if the shades had been pulled up, I have been focused on the moving and packing project. There are roughly 180 objects that need to be housed and then moved before construction next door begins. The progress the team I am working with is steady. I was assigned a full shelf of objects and have been making my way through them. These artifacts are made up of a variety of materials and come in all shapes and sizes, thus there are many factors to consider when building storage for them.

KLGO’s curator has provided our team with hands-on training and informational resources, which has made designing or selecting housing for objects easy and enjoyable. A condition report is completed for each object, or component part of an object. The material of the object, the size, and the level of support it needs are all taken into consideration. While the primary goal for this project is to pack objects for transport to their new storage location, many of the objects are eligible for more permanent storage solutions. These pack jobs require a little more consideration and planning, since the pack is not just for transport, but will serve as permanent storage. 

A selection of condition reports in progress. These reports help to identify the object and details included will aid in future monitoring of its condition.

Over the course of a month, I’ve completed condition reports and built housing for over 30 objects. I have constructed tray packs and created custom boxes. Currently, a disassembled wheelchair dating from the late 1800s consumes my time in the archive. The component pieces require at least 4 custom boxes to be built and various levels of support. It’s a challenge, to say the least, but an enjoyable one. This work in general has been an absolute delight; it’s my first time building this type of storage and I very much hope it’s not my last.

One of the custom boxes I constructed to hold more component parts from the wheelchair.

Even if I’m not able to witness the new season springing forth at work, my walks home from the archive became warm enough that I’ve begun biking instead. The sun lingers in the sky, providing both a little extra warmth and a steady stream of light – albeit light filtered through persistent cloud cover – and I stretched my post-work commute into walks through the historic district or out to Yakutania Point. The streets, alleyways, and paths are all familiar to me by now – last month marked my first full year spent in Skagway – but the signs of spring everywhere helps my mind turn to the months ahead. 

I have officially reached the midpoint of my term with ACE. Time has flown and yet I’ve had so many engrossing and varied experiences in these past two months that it feels like I’ve been here much longer. This midpoint has been marked by midterm check-ins with ACE and NPS, the former in writing and the latter in person. I’m grateful for both; I have had time to reflect on what I have accomplished and space to plan for what the second half of this experience will look like.

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