Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Secret Lives of Interns: Field Trip to the Holocaust Museum Offsite Storage

A blog by Kristin Davidson

Wednesday was a particularly exciting day for Intern Brittney and myself, as Intern Wrangler Jobi had arranged a little field trip for us, along with the rest of the interns and Rachel K and Elena. Yes, that’s right they let us out of the basement!! After letting our eyes adjust to the sunlight, we drove down to the US Holocaust Museum offsite storage facility.

All of the interns arrived at the unmarked building without incident; however, we quickly realized that someone was missing…


Our fearless leaders Rachel K. and Elena!

still looking...

We watched and waited as we saw their car pass by the facility not once, but two times before they pulled into the parking lot. But they did finally arrive safely, and there was much rejoicing…

A victorious arrival

Heather Kajic, Registrar for the offsite storage facility, met us at the door. After introductions, Heather told us a little bit about the facility and their rapidly increasing need for more storage space (a problem that apparently plagues all museums great and small).

Our behind-the-scenes tour began with a peek inside the facility’s very own conservation lab (a luxury that small museums like JMM can only dream about). Next we moved on to the loading dock which was relatively empty and awaiting the incoming 4000 shoes from the Holocaust Museum downtown. These 4000 shoes (which you may have seen on exhibit) were on loan from the State Museum at Majdanek and will be returned to the site in exchange for another set of 4000 shoes.

Heather shows us the shoes waiting to be cleaned and packaged for shipment.

Then we moved onto the storage closets, where Heather showed us many interesting artifacts and explained how different types of materials are housed separately….



And Leathers.

Seeing these types of artifacts was a haunting reminder of the people and events they represent. While showing us a concentration camp uniform that had been altered by a survivor into a dress, Heather told us that often when survivors had get-togethers, they would wear their uniforms to the meetings.

An example of a survivor's uniform.

Next we walked by archival materials, housed on 2-story high shelves, without an empty space in sight. We also got to see the facility’s wood and metal shop where models for new exhibits are built. Then it was back to the break room for questions.

I asked Heather how many objects were in the collection, and she told us she thought there were about 30,000 objects and millions of pages of archival material. She told us about many of the day to day challenges of working with a collection this size - turns out we have a lot of the same ones at the JMM!

It was interesting to see that apparently all museums, large and small, have to work through the same kinds of issues, such as having a balance between protecting the materials and allowing access and that of constantly running out storage space.

But for now, it’s back to the basement for Intern Brittney and myself!

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