By Michael Sprague
Since my last post, I have been assisting the Wyandotte County Museum in converting written records of its artifacts to a new digital database. The museum has been overdue for this conversion of its records for quite some time. Given the quantity of the museum’s artifacts and oddities, I am not certain how the staff has managed to organize its many closets, cabinets, and vaults. I had previously discussed this issue with the curator and the director, and they stated that this database was among the primary goals of the museum to complete. The director also jested that without the database, the staff did not know what they had in their archives. After learning about how much work has been done for the database, and how much more work still needs done, I am not so sure she was joking.
With only three paid staff members, the museum depends on the labor of employees and interns. The staff created a crowdsourcing model, drawing volunteers across the country to do the meaningful work of creating this database. Since mid-March shutdown, the museum’s database has grown from 7,000 records to more than 17,000. I am proud to have contributed 250 records to the database. It may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to 17,000, but at moments it felt like an overwhelming task.
The collections that I entered into the database ranged from 19th century real estate documents to WWI combat uniforms. All of these artifacts were donated by residents of Wyandotte County, and meticulously catalogued by a former staff member in the 1980s (who frustratingly, wrote all of these notes in cursive script). While the work was at times tedious, I certainly felt accomplished to have measurably contributed to the museum’s most needed project. I intend to volunteer my time towards this project over the summer if more work is needed, even though my internship concludes this week. If nothing else, this project showed me the staggering number of artifacts housed by the museum. It has also instilled a sense of duty to contribute more to the endeavor of properly cataloguing it.