Because of MLK Day, I had a very, very brief week at the collection. However, I can now say that the Dirty Room is my domain. Jennifer and I went through a number of boxes during our time working together, but it’s hard to say if I’ll be able to complete the entire room before my Co-Op is over. Unfortunately, working in the Dirty Room requires two people – between the length of the boxes and the size of many of the garments inside said boxes, it would be irresponsible to have one person handling them. So, it’ll be interesting to see how often I can get another intern or work-study student to help me out in there.
What Jennifer and another intern started over the summer was essentially a cataloging project. With changes in storage location and leadership over the years, it’s impossible for us to know exactly what we have and do not have without going through and looking at every single object in the collection. So, that’s what I’m doing in my own designated space. It’s not an incredibly detailed process, luckily.
This is how it goes: You take a box from a stack, assign a number to it, open it, and examine its contents. The majority of the time, a garment will have some kind of identification number stitched inside a hem that matches up to a label on the outside of the box. The box number, garment/object number, a brief description, and any donor or date information available is recorded, and quick reference photos are taken of each item. If anything stands out, the box might be brought into the main collection for the curator, Clare, to look at.
If she decides that it should be in the main collection/storage, an accession sheet is filled out and put in a special Dirty Room file folder. If not, it goes back in the box and is restacked. Regardless of whether or not an object is brought into the main area, the information and photos are eventually added to an Excel spreadsheet. The idea is that, once we get through the whole room, it’ll be easier to locate items and decide if and/or where they will be moved to in the future.
The most interesting thing I’ve experienced in this so far is the whole bringing-stuff-to-Clare aspect. It can be a little nerve-wracking sometimes…It’s often hard to tell, with such little information to go off of, if a garment makes me wonder how many things we skipped over that may have unseen significance. (Hopefully the full spreadsheet will help with that in the future).
An example of how this could happen comes in the form of a purple dress. Jennifer and I brought it in because of its beautiful plummy wine color and its condition. Cut to a few hours later, and we find out that it was actually worn by someone important in Drexel history! (Whose name, unfortunately, I can’t remember right now. Oops.) What I’ve learned in these past two weeks is really that you never know what you’re going to find…and that is so exciting.
And now for pictures of some of my favorites from this week! 🙂