Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another couple of days in the life of the assistant...

For a week that started out with a holiday, it's already been a long one. I started both days by performing quality assurance on boxes of images that have been scanned and on the metadata related to them, all of which have been uploaded to an online database. This involves sampling the box at 1% and comparing the info and image online to the item in the box. This is a very good time for the iPod. However, most of the action has centered on something called a charette. I'd never heard the word before a few weeks ago so I looked it up: it's defined as an "intense design exercise."

As I'm sure we've told you before, the museum is being relocated when the Walter Reed Army Medical Center closes in a few years. We're being sent just a mile or three up the road in Maryland and we're having a new museum built. Sounds great, doesn't it? Lemme tell ya, even as a bystander not having any importance to the project, it's a lot of work. Which brings us to the charette.

Yesterday and today, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, some Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission people, other Army people with interest in the process, the architects, some other people never identified to me, and museum staff in varying numbers, met for some scrutiny as to what we do and in what amount of space. Under BRAC law, we can't have a larger building than what we currently occupy even though most of us are overwhelmingly crowded. However, the designers are listening and noting, and we have high hopes that with professional design assistance, the space we'll occupy will be more functional and efficient even if no larger. So yesterday most of the collections staff were called in to talk about our space and give a general overview of how it's allocated.

Today we were asked to be more specific so collections staff met again and most of the day was spent poring over schematics of the building and creating a spreadsheet that spelled out how much space in each area is used for collections storage, researcher, processing, and office space (to give you an idea of how crowded we are, my "office" space is about 15 square feet and Mike's is not much more), and common storage areas for materials like empty boxes. There's a certain amount of overlap in a couple of areas, such as one largish room functioning as a combination of storage, processing, researcher, registrar, and office space for three different collections, so it took us a while to parse that kind of thing out.

The committee also wants to know what our anticipated growth is for the next several years. This information is probably the hardest of all to come up with. It's not like the spigot opens and closes with regularity, and that we control the flow. Some years in the archives we might accumulate another 10 linear feet of material. A middle amount might be 250 feet. A few years back we got 3000 bankers' boxes added to our collection. Yes, 3000. And for about the last six months of this year, just off the top of my head, I could come up with about 130 feet of material that came in in about 6-8 donations/accumulations. Finally, this 130 feet does not include the 22 cubic feet of video tapes that were delivered on Tuesday. We anticipate exponential growth over the next few years but have no real way to predict just how exponential it will be, unless "a lot" is an acceptable measurement.

Still haven't finished that "receipt" book but I have plans to do so tonight after the treadmill.


Paul S said...

I recall three times in my years there of similar meetings with architects, staff, etc, about planning a "new museum space." Not to sound too pessimistic, but each one generated much of the same information. Seems ironic at this point that the actual closing of the museum will drive the new space.
What about all the stuff at the "off-site storage facility" up the road in Gaithersburg?

Kathleen Stocker said...

Hi, Paul-

Well, I understand your view on this. The good thing is that something must happen because the current site will cease to be. We can only hope that it will be good things that happen.

As far as the warehouse - we don't know. Does that sound familiar? It sure won't be housed at the new museum, but long-term plans for warehouse space are still undecided. I like the idea of open storage but we won't have enough space to incorporate all the warehouse stuff.

Thanks for your comment.