Although the AAM conference didn’t officially begin until Sunday, 35 collections care professionals and conservators gathered together in Baltimore on Saturday morning for a pre-conference workshop: The Reinforcement Crew.
Now in its 7th year, the Reinforcement Crew is the brain child of Heather Kajic (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC) and Mark Ryan (Plains Art Museum, Fargo, ND) and is a sub-committee of the AAM Registrar’s Committee. While discussing a session proposal for the 2007 AAM Annual Meeting about the various “helping hands” projects conducted at the regional level, Heather and Mark decided to take it one step further and planned a day-long service project.
The goal is for collection professionals from around the country to volunteer their time and expertise to assist smaller museums and cultural institutions with collections-based projects that they couldn’t otherwise do on their own.
In Baltimore Reinforcement Crew dispersed to 4 different sites for a day-long hands-on collections project at the Evergreen House on the Johns Hopkins University Campus, James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University, the Lillie Carroll Jackson House (currently housed at the JELMA), and the Fells Point Preservation Society. We could see the impact of our work immediately.
For example, my group of 12–which included museum studies students, a museum board member and volunteer, and a photographer from the Washington Conservation Guild—began an inventory of artifacts from the Lillie Carroll Jackson House, including brief condition reports and photographs. Lillie Carroll Jackson started the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP –and had a wonderful sense of style!
We worked for 5 hours, contributing 60 man-hours of labor! We inventoried over 150 objects, but more importantly we did what amounts to 1.5 weeks of pure, concentrated collections work, which is nearly impossible to complete when you are working by yourself. I think many of us would have loved the opportunity to stay another day (or two or three) to finish the inventory!
According to James E. Lewis Museum of Art registrar (and former JMM intern) Nicole Paterson, “Months of work was done in just one day.” Ten members of the Washington Conservation Guild and other Reinforcement Crew volunteers unframed and housed 100 works of art for the JELMA.
The Reinforcement Crew (and the regional groups White Gloves Gang, WCG Angels, and Helping Hands Brigade), is extremely successful because the participants know they are truly helping out their colleagues. Many of the participants are familiar with one another through the Registrar’s Committee List-Serve, but the camaraderie is built while working together. It is also a wonderful opportunity to network, explore another museum’s collection, share knowledge, and learn something new. All of the participants in the Reinforcement Crew are all volunteers. In fact, they often come at their own expense! Talk about dedication!!
The success of the Reinforcement Crew not only depends upon the voluntary time of museum professionals but also the generosity of vendors in the industry. The 2013 Reinforcement crew was sponsored by Terry Dowd Inc., Transport Consultants International (TCI), Materials & Methods and Bonsai Fine Arts. In addition to providing the necessary supplies, and refreshing libations, the sponsors also pitched in for the volunteer event.
At the end of the afternoon, the Crew gathered together for a reception at the Fells Point Preservation Society. We enjoyed some local treats including Utz Crab Chips and Berger cookies, tested the libations from several area breweries, and heard the praises of thanks from our host institutions.
A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. Jobi is also the Museum’s Registrar and Intern Wrangler. Click here to read other posts by Jobi!