What goes in to accessioning an artifact into the collection?

When a potential artifact donor walks through our doors there are many decisions to be made about their gift. The first question, of course, is what do you have and why does it belong at the ACM? Our collection contains items from all facets of life, each representing our local, state, and in some cases national history. With limited display and storage space, we are forced to only accept items which help us tell the stories of our county and state.

Speaking of storage, how big is this item? Sometimes an item is so large that we simply cannot accept it. But don’t think size will always keep us from taking an artifact. For instance, we currently have a 1930’s cotton gin on display which stands over 9 feet tall, a fully restored one-horse Ames buggy, and an 8 foot long field kitchen from the First World War! Each decision must be specific to the donation and to the story we plan to tell with it.

Finally, we must consider the condition of the artifact. Say that a book comes in which has suffered flood damage. It can no longer be read, can barely be opened, and its binding is in shambles. This book would be impossible to save and, therefore, an irresponsible accession. The same would go for a leather briefcase showing severe red rot, or a decaying piece of furniture that may be harboring insects. If our staff is unable to properly treat an object or if it puts other pieces of our collection at risk, we would be forced to turn it away.

All this said, literally anything can serve an important historical purpose. Household objects that were so often thrown away now find themselves in this museum, exhibiting aspects of home life, agriculture, education, commerce, and more! So never think that what you have is useless or insignificant. Who knows when we may have that exhibit on turn-of-the-century shoelaces? You mean you didn’t know that?