Growing our Artifact Collection

Artifact Collection | Apr 24 / 18

It may be that spring is finally here. Cherry blossom, tulips, daffodils, and muscarii are in bloom everywhere and humming of lawn mowers has begun once again.

With the season comes spring cleaning. What to keep and what to throw away or recycle? Or donate to your local museum?

My daughter was born at Peace Arch Hospital and christened at the Church of the Holy Trinity here in White Rock.  Her hand-sewn christening gown could possibly be a welcome addition to the WRMA collections someday, although I am hoping it will become a family heirloom. My mum has carried with her, in a small box, through many moves, across thousands of kilometres, over a period of more than fifty years, her dog Strike’s baby teeth.  It has become a family joke.

When I first began as Director at the museum a year ago, I spent time with each staff member, learning more about them, and their roles. When I spoke with Kate, our Curator, she spoke to me at length about collecting and what it means. Museums are the recipients of some wonderful donations, adding pieces to the museum’s collection providing opportunities for present and future generations to learn and explore. Other pieces must be gently and diplomatically declined as they may not relate as closely to the community or our museum’s specific mandate.

Here at the White Rock Museum and Archives, our potential acquisitions must meet three basic criteria:

  1. Relevance: the object must support the Museum’s mission and fit within its stated collecting goals.
  2. Use: the object must have the capacity for use in exhibitions and/or for research and scholarly purposes.
  3. Condition: the object must be in reasonable condition and must not require significant expense for treatment in order to make it relevant or useful.

There are also a multitude of practical considerations to any donation to our museum, like number of similar or duplicate objects that we may already have of a certain item. Each donation is unique, and given careful assessment within the context of the existing collection.

As with everyone, so too, a museum must take account of what it holds in its collection and from time to time, and assesses gaps in the collection, and embark on a period of ‘mindful’ or ‘active collecting’. Is there a specific event or topic we don’t have much information, or historical material on? Is there a event happening now, in the present that we can collect objects and material on for the generations of tomorrow? “Mindful collecting” is a concerted effort to view the collection as a whole, and seek out specific objects or related items that might help tell the story of White Rock long into the future.