Workers begin packing state museum items

The Associated PressOctober 7, 2013 

— Workers have begun packing up the vast collection of the Alaska State Museum, which includes pieces ranging from artwork and baskets to a locomotive and 45-foot long boat, or umiak. 

Items from the 32,000-piece collection will be moved to a climate-controlled facility currently under construction until a new state Libraries, Archives and Museum building is built in Juneau. The new facility is scheduled to open in 2016. 

A team of museum professionals and volunteers is preparing for the move, scheduled for early next year. Conservator Ellen Carrlee is responsible for figuring out how to pack things up. The process involves opening every drawer in every storage unit and devising a plan for each item, KTOO reported (http://bit.ly/1g990uQ ). 

"Like this drawer for example has several boxes in it already, which are really easy to travel," she said as she pulled out a drawer. "But this drum which is from the Arctic Winter Games. It's a walrus stomach drum from 1974 and it has signatures of people all over. It's very delicate." 

Carrlee said she and other museum staff pack and move objects all the time. But moving an entire collection is different. 

She searched the Internet for tips, and has had to improvise, devising different techniques for packing various artifacts, including dance fans with feathers, ivory cribbage boards, spruce root baskets and a three-foot high piece of red tree coral. 

She walks around the basement, where the bulk of items are stored, studies each item and writes down a plan to stabilize each one. She then tapes her handwritten notes and diagrams to the outside of the cabinet. 

Carrlee leads a team whose members are handling different aspects of the packing. 

On a recent day, museum professional Jon Loring was focusing on ivory. He wore cotton gloves and was making custom storage mounts for carved ivory pipes. The museum has 70 ivory pipes in its collection. Loring is also making custom mounts for the museum's 600 masks. 

Numbers on items link them to the museum's database. Carrlee said having to look through every storage unit has helped the team locate items without numbers. "This museum goes back to 1900 so we've got 113 years of potential clerical errors," she said. 

There's also the chance of finding something that was missing, or pieces that were separated. 

"Right now I've got a bag that has a wing in it from a taxidermied bird and I know that through this process, I'm eventually going to find a bird with one wing and we're going to reunite the bird with its wing," Carlee said.

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Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org 

 

Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org

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