For the next curator:
About The Museum
The Camp Kawanhee History Museum is a one-room cabin containing a collection of camp photographs, documents and artifacts that dates back to 1920. There is one freestanding display case, two tabletop displays, two exhibits on the walls and bookshelves containing past camp catalogs and other camp artifacts. Additionally, there are two filing cabinets with documents such as camp newsletters, stock certificates, personal correspondence, etc., organized by year. Below the two tables that have displays, there is a storage area containing historical items and tech equipment: slides, photos, poster boards, books, catalogs, projectors, etc. The historical items are unorganized and in danger of being damaged if they are not properly stored. The museum does not attract regular visitors, though campers sometimes come inside to find the answer to the day’s trivia question, which is posted outside. Alumni visit on occasion. I’d estimate there’s an average of 1 visitor per week during the camp season.
Ideal curator qualities & interests
This job is appropriate for someone who is independent, self-motivated, creative, interested in archival work (which can often be tedious), willing to self-instruct, comfortable with technology and a strong writer. While there are plenty of tasks to do—so many, in fact, that the job can easily feel overwhelming—it will be up to you to identify these tasks, make projects out of them and figure out how to best execute them. Tom Pears is very generous in offering advice or support when it is requested, but expect to be more or less your own boss in terms of day-to-day tasks.
Being a good listener is also important. Mike Altmaier, a staff member who has been at camp for over 50 years, is essentially a living encyclopedia on Kawanhee and visits the history cabin often. He is a great resource and happy to answer any questions you may have about camp history. He has also curated most of the exhibits that are on display in the museum.
Ideal curator technical skills
In this job, I used Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop Elements and WordPress on a daily basis. Though I did not have time to begin accessioning items in Past Perfect, familiarity with this software would be useful as well, given that cataloging the collection is an important next step for the museum. WordPress often did not have the features I needed to support what I wanted to display on the website, so I often installed plugins and used HTML short code to enhance the website.
Example job tasks
These are some of the tasks and projects I completed this summer. All could be continued or expanded upon in summers to come.
- researched and wrote labels for the freestanding exhibit display case
- gathered names and contact information of past Kawanhee staff and campers who are interested in sharing their camp memories
- organized and properly stored material in filing cabinets
- scanned material from filing cabinets from 1920 – 1939, and labeled according to naming conventions (year.document type.number)
- edited scanned images (straighten, crop, minor color correction) and combined them into PDFs when applicable
- ran and corrected optical character recognition (OCR) on select texts to make them searchable
- prepared a report on the history of religious life at camp
- conducted and transcribed oral histories
- designed a website, populating it with exhibits, a timeline, etc.
- planned a training with Maine Memory Network (MMN), allowing Kawanhee to post items and virtual exhibits on their website
- assisted Junior Councilors in doing research for history kiosks
- camp duties: night watch, covering activities, driving
Suggested tasks for the next intern
- accession items into PastPerfect
- catalog additional collection highlights and virtual exhibits on MMN
- revamp the exhibits in the history cabin, replacing water damaged labels and ensuring that all objects have labels
- curate additional exhibits for the website
- move Wigwams into clear sheet protectors in binders for protection, accessibility
- translate of letter from king of spain (enlist a camper for help!)
These are some of the resources that I found helpful in my work. The third is mandatory reading before uploading items to the Maine Memory Network.
- Archives and special collections: A guide to resources on the Web by the American Library Association
- The AABC Archivist’s Toolkit by the Archives Association of British Columbia
- Contributing Partners’ Manual: Your Guide to Digitizing and Cataloging Historical Items for Maine Memory Network by the Maine Memory Network