The University Museum's new grant is the second it has received to identify every artifact in the museum. The Institute of Museum and Library Services has provided the $153,000 grant to help with the University Museum's three-step plan for inventorying the entire collection of more than 34,000 objects.
According to Erin Vigneau-Dimick, executive curator, it is important to have an accurate record of every single item in the museum, for two main reasons: museum ethics, protecting and preserving artifacts for future generations, and the fact that all the objects are state property.
Vigneau-Dimick said that part of the process of inventory is finding out what objects can be deselected. Deselecting certain items that are no longer beneficial to the SIUE community, is removing them from the museum’s collection and donating them to other museums.
Dana Lewis, an assistant researcher, said because the museum has received this grant, it means that all of the work they have put in over the last few years doesn’t come to a grinding halt but the staff is able to keep the momentum going.
“The protocols that we've written, procedures and kind of the ways in which we documented how we did things beginning, the different types of inventory practices that we were doing, can really be more meaningful as they can just keep going,” Lewis said.
The museum has over 34,000 objects in its collection. Vigneau-Dimick said through the process of taking inventory it may look like the number of objects in the collection is going up, but in reality, the number goes up because they are finding objects that have been missed in the past and adding them to their digital database. Since 2016, they have added 3,500 objects to the collection.
“We're finding that it's about 25 percent of the material that we put our hands on doesn't have an accurate record, or sometimes any record at all,” Vigneau-Dimick said.
According to Vigneau-Dimick, the grant pays for two full-time assistant researchers who are part of the inventory process, but who also supervise graduate students who work in the museum.
The museum is home to all of the art that the university has displayed since 1963. The museum was established in 1979 and now holds more than just art. The museum has artifacts from around the world, from Peruvian textiles to trade silver used by French trappers in early American history.
Laura Vermilye, the exhibits preparator, said it is nice not only to get the money that will help benefit the museum’s plan but the support that comes from being awarded the grant as well.
“It's also great validation that this granting agency thinks what we're doing is valid. It's a serious project. I kind of feel like, after getting this one, I think that we're just going to keep getting help,” Vermilye said.
Vermilye said that her job of installing art around campus has become easier now that every piece of art in the museum has been entered into the database.
“Facilitating [professors and students] to be inspired by the artwork, see the artwork, make art, make their own art informed by our art and our objects. Once everything is trackable, it's going just facilitates our ability to serve the community of this campus,” Vermilye said. “It's exciting that we're getting one step closer to being able to serve the campus.”
Vigneau-Dimick said the inventory project will take another four to six years to complete. She said she hopes to keep writing grants that will allow the project to continue smoothly over the next steps.