I’ve been a board member of the Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society here in Oshkosh for the last three years. We have an awesome facility in the old John Morgan house. The Morgans were the founders of one of the reputable sash and door factories back in Oshkosh’s heyday of the lumber industry. Our society inherited the house in the 1980s from a generous donor, and it has been restored since then. We are fortunate to have such a nice facility to be able to house a diverse collection of books, photographs, and documents.
When I joined the board of directors back in 2013, I took on the big project of archiving our decent-sized collections of photographs, books, and assorted documents. We have a great variety of items that have been donated over the years. We are also contacted on a regular basis for new items people want to donate. I’ve put a plan in motion to organize, catalog, and make them accessible to people.
In 2015, I applied for the Wisconsin Historical Society’s annual mini-grant, which is to help fund preservation projects at affiliate organizations. They award up to $700, and the organization applying must match the amount being asked for. My request was for $565, which we were awarded, and with the matching funds gave us a total of $1,130 to spend for preservation. We purchased the following items for our archives with the money we were given:
- Archival Boxes for Storage (Gaylord Archival)
- 2 TB External Hard Drive Storage ( backup for scanned photos/records)
- Media Upgrade for PastPerfect Museum Software ( adding photographs to computer catalog)
Due to a massive restoration project from water damage in another part of the house in 2015, the archival project was put on hold for most of last year. Now that the restoration is complete, I have been able to get back to it. I have started by taking all of the items we received in 2015 and 2016 and started cataloging them into our computer database. After those are in, I will go back and start examining everything we have gotten in the past and organize it. It’s important we document the donor information as well.
I earned my undergraduate degree in history from UW Oshkosh, and I have decided to get some hands-on experience rather than going on for a higher degree. I’ve taken an online training course through the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) on the basics of archiving. There are also a lot of great resources online to help us out. It would be great to have a professional come in and volunteer!
Once organized and in the computer catalog, I would like to put together a plan in which we can make this more accessible to our members and the general public. We do not have a specific space laid out for researchers to come in and use our resources, which is the purpose of collecting and preserving the material. I envision one of our rooms being arranged so people can come in and scan documents and photographs or come in and use our library collection.
This summer my good friend and fellow board member Patti and I worked on cataloging the library collection. We finished that up before the end of summer–over 300 books in the library. Of course, our society needs all the help we can get with preservation projects like this. I encourage you to contact our society, if you are in the area, and get involved with this cataloging project. It is actually a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s hard to focus and keep working because you can’t help but examine the stuff you are cataloging.
You can email the society at WinnebagoHistoricalSociety@gmail.com and say that you want to help the Collections Committee catalog.