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For the record: Artifacts painstakingly rescued

Staff Writer

Aubrey Wheeler often reminds herself that the daunting job of cataloging Marion Historical Museum’s artifacts will be conquered like any mountain — step by step.

That doesn’t make the long-overdue task easier, but as director she hopes her efforts during months the museum is closed will help its curators get a handle on what it has.

Former director Peggy Blackman is happy Wheeler has agreed to take this on this task.

“We have never had a professional, if you will, in there to do what she is doing,” Blackman said.

She hopes they will be able to bring in new displays from storage when the museum officially reopens in April. The thought of freshening up the museum’s exhibits cheers Wheeler up, even though she is often frustrated when the efforts are painstaking and slow.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anywhere,” she said as she sifted through piles of books jammed with cards and papers.

Through the years, volunteers kept records of the museum’s artifacts by filling out note cards with short descriptions of the items along with information sheets on their donors.

The information was then stashed in books or file cabinets.

Wheeler is attempting to remedy this haphazard system by matching handwritten cards and donor sheets with their artifacts and then organizing the information by date, not by exhibit or some other forgotten method.

“These are some, I don’t know,” she said gesturing to a pile of artifact cards. “They didn’t write down the dates they received the artifacts or anything like that.”

Wheeler has organized note cards with no corresponding information by year and set them aside in the hopes a little detective work may help her find the artifacts later.

When she has most of the museum’s card catalogs arranged, she will begin entering artifact information into Past Perfect, collection management software, the museum is also using to digitize and catalog historic photographs.

Wheeler hopes to turn her attention to the museum’s exhibits, but not until she and board members have a record of most of the artifacts that are packed away in boxes.

“Before I can touch anything and move anything in the exhibits I want to make sure I have a majority of them in the catalog,” she said.

Then she will try to figure out how to display them.

“That’s the biggest thing, because there is some really amazing stuff in here,” she said.

Blackman said other future plans for the museum include possible basement improvements for more storage, new sump pumps, replacement of a warped outside door, and the possible purchase of building or land to expand.

An Oct. 30 auction of four classic cars donated by former Peabody resident Marvin Larsen raised about $17,200 to go toward the rent or purchase of a buildings, but a few they were interested in are taken.

“Right now we’re in a stalemate,” she said.

The historical museum will be open Nov. 28 during Marion’s Holly Jolly Christmas celebration and then close until the end of March while they work to reorganize.

Wheeler said the steps they are taking to build a system from scratch will add up to big changes for the museum — she hopes.

“I wish it would go faster in some ways, but I also know it takes time,” she said. “Sometimes I am patient, but I also want to see some major noticeable things get done.

But sometimes the small things are the important things. You’ve got to start small and work your way up.”

Last modified Nov. 18, 2020

 

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