In my last post, I discussed the completion of the inventory component of our accession of the Shafer/Motherway Collection. The numbers reported in that blog included details on the size and scope of the collection. However, there are numbers that can be gleaned from the results of the inventory: the cost of completing the processing of the collection and providing for its continued preservation.
There are many economic factors that contribute to successfully archiving a collection. Physical site expenses such as shelving, boxes and folders, and climate control contribute to the preservation of the collection while database software and web development costs are necessary to ensure accessibility. For any institution, these costs can be prohibitive or difficult to budget, but this is especially true for small, non-profit organizations.
I have worked for the past six years in my local historical society and have experienced the challenges of balancing desired level of archival storage, preservation, and accessibility with the realities of volunteer workers, donation-based income, and limited resources. These experiences have demonstrated the need to prioritize your projects and to move forward with manageable goals. Long-range planning is often necessary to ensure that the goals you set are achieved in a manner than can be supported by annual funding plans or, in some cases, special fundraising efforts.
For the Shafer/Motherway Collection, I am approaching the drafting of my recommendations by prioritizing those parts of the collection that are most in need of proper housing and storage. The manuscript collections are an easy first step which meets this goal since the documents themselves have been subjected to moisture and weather that have hastened their deterioration. However, fully processing these documents will also support greater access to this group of the collection and provide the association with a better impression of the records contained within this section.
Looking forward, rehousing the most fragile or vulnerable objects and textiles/apparel will follow the processing of the manuscripts group. Developing a tool to grant digital access to the records will also be a priority in the next phases of archiving this significant collection. All of these goals will, of course, need to be aligned both with funding realities and with the programmatic goals of the organization.