Article From the Fall 2002 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
CLEANING UP THE ARCHIVE ROOM
Any museum devotes a lot of space and time to the items in storage awaiting restoration, exhibit space, or the probing eyes of a researcher. It’s true at NYMT too. Recently we received a number of donations of books and transportation related documents and artifacts, and they started to pile up in the few feet of available space in the Archive Room, awaiting cataloguing and storage. While we still had room to move around in the room, Ted Thomas decided to take some time away from cataloguing older items and put some time in on the problem, and the results have been good.
First, he dealt with the fact that we had outgrown the existing shelf space, by reviewing the hoard of paint and related supplies being stored in the room for reasons of temperature control. Out went any paint that had long ago dried up or become unusable; similarly, all oil-based products were sorted and placed in a separate, unheated storage location. The remaining few cans of water-based paints were put on a shelf unit John Corzine installed, and will remain there until a separate, heated location can be arranged.
The former paint shelving, plus the new shelf unit, added about fifty feet of shelf space to expand our library, which had reached critical mass a long time ago, with categories expanded in haphazard fashion and books piled on top of books. New volunteer JoAnn Lewis will be rearranging the books and cataloguing them through the winter.
Ted went to work in his home woodshop and built an extension to one of the main archive shelf units, providing room for another four or six of the standard lawyers’ cartons we use. A lot of miscellaneous items that accumulated in the Archive Room were moved to storage in the milking parlor to make room for this shelf extension, and while Ted was at it he put in a major effort culling out the many donated railfan magazines, sorting them and placing them in a separate spot for eventual sale in the Gift Shop.
The ongoing cataloguing of the many cartons that Ted has been doing has had the benefit of consolidating them. He often finds books, manuals and artifacts lurking in cartons, which can be stored elsewhere, freeing space for catalogued photographs and documents.
Ted’s cataloguing has led him to build a copy stand for making digital copies of photographs and small items, in order to put these images in the computer catalogue and onto our website. An interesting plus in this new technology: negatives, illuminated with a light box, can be photographed and digitally converted to a positive image. Anyone who has tried to "read" a negative can appreciate the benefit this brings.
We’re happy to report that Shelden King has been able to return to archive duty on a regular basis, at least until winter weather slows him down. Shelden’s encyclopedic knowledge of trolley and railroad facts is a great help in correctly identifying subject matter in those "mystery photos" that come up from time to time. His current undertaking is a review of the Vertical File, originally the John Woodbury collection of files on trolley lines around the country. We continue to file information there when appropriate, and add files too. Shelden is inspecting each folder, assuring that the contents are in the right place, sleeving any photos, and putting his librarian background to work with proper "see also" files. This latter point is critical in cases where a company had several names over the years.
We’re extremely fortunate to have the time and talents of Ted and Shelden in our Archive Room, and we welcome JoAnn to the team!