Sunday, June 17, 2012

The First Step

It took me all of ten minutes to realize that the small museum I volunteer at is so much more complicated than I was ever lead to believe. My college campus is incredibly secular, and just about any whiff of a strongly faithful Christian is met with general distrust. Our campus is located in a small Midwestern town that was once heavily immersed in the industrialization of the U.S., and we were known for producing the machines that made printing presses, as well as some other items. As such, our city is pretty well-entrenched in the Rust Belt, from what I can tell and from what I've heard. The downtown area, since I was a freshman, has been undergoing a lot of renovations in order to bring in revenue and to encourage more visitation to the town. There are now a bunch of adorable (and sometimes over-priced) shops, which are for the most part standard small-town college fair.

The museum I intern at is, to put it simply, tiny. The vast bulk of their collection is on permanent display, and they've managed to stay open for fifteen years. Their collection is, as well, incredibly specialized, which makes it interesting to spend time in the physical building. It was once a Catholic church, and as such has beautiful round stained glass windows that look like sunflowers at first glance.

To put it simply, I was nervous when I went for my initial interview. I had never stepped foot inside the building proper until my interview, and it was nerve-wracking to try and come up with a way to make myself look a little less like a college student and more like someone an institution like that would want seen around the building. I clean up well, though.

The woman who would become my on-site supervisor is incredibly kind. She worked for a car company for thirty years putting together engines, which is staggering to think about. I can't much imagine doing something for thirty years, let alone doing something like putting engines together. After talking with her for a few minutes into my interview, she told me that it wouldn't be likely that they would have a whole lot to do. I assumed I would mostly be dusting collections or moving heavy boxes for the volunteer staff that are all fifty or above (by my reckoning). My heart sank. I needed the credit, and I wanted the experience. But it turns out they needed someone to catalog the collections, which would be perfect for someone to do. I agreed, and that was that.

I'm not going to lie: cataloging is incredibly boring work so far. I've had to come up with a good way of organizing a collection of over one thousand items, many of which are numbered in ways that I can't quite fathom-- even if the system was explained to me by the owner of the collection. Microsoft Exel, it turns out, will be my very close friend.

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