Northern States Conservation Center

Providing collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services to collectors and collecting institutions.

Collections Caretaker

Collections Caretaker (June 28, 2012)
June 28, 2012 
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Moving Forward 
In This Issue
Tim Huber Moves Forward
Regional Workshops
Moving Collections
Establishing a Tribal (or any) Museum
Busy Spring at Northern States
Upcoming Classes

July 2, 2012


MS104: An Introduction to Collections Preservation 


MS207: Collections Management: Cataloging Your Collection  


MS223: Care of Metals 


MS235: Scripting the Exhibition  


MS242: Museum Microclimates  


MS256: Establishing a Museum **NEW**


MS262: Moving Collections **NEW**  


July 9, 2012


MS007: The Mission Statement: Is it really that important?


August 6, 2012 


MS101: Introduction to Museums

MS208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects: Materials and Methods of Object Numbering

MS209: Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions

MS226: Care of Furniture and Wood Artifacts

MS228: Care of Paper Artifacts

MS236: Education in Museums

MS244: Traveling Exhibitions **NEW**


August 13, 2012

MS008: Buy-In: Getting All of the Staff to Support Preservation  

August 20, 2012

MS002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared? 

Tim Huber Moves Forward
Tim Huber
Tim Huber in June 2012, one year after a massive stroke felled him.
It has been a year since our editor and colleague, Tim Huber, suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke. In that year he has worked hard to relearn how to get out of bed, do self care, walk and talk. Now, at the cusp of his first post-stroke anniversary, he is walking 600 feet with a straight cane, going up and down stairs with minimal assistance, and riding the community handicap van to therapy. He has been channeling Calvin Coolidge, giving succinct and apt one word answers and comments. In this, his former facility with words stands him in good stead. It is hard to get out any words, so he picks the most applicable one to say. His biting wit is still intact.


In August, Tim will leave Charleston, West Virginia to continue intensive stroke therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). RIC's "Prime of Life" stroke rehabilitation program is specially designed for people with stroke whose multi-faceted and rigorous lives demand aggressive intervention. Often, those patients are younger and face greater demands, such as caring for a family, continuing a career or community involvement, engaging in an active social life and enjoying intimate relationships.


The RIC Prime of Life program integrates traditional therapies and specialized services with other novel therapies not typically available elsewhere, including:

Tim's neurologist predicts that it will take three years for Tim to return to working with words - if he continues to work hard and gets the best possible therapy. RIC is the best. We are looking forward to having him back with us.

Tim Huber volunteered for 14 years as editor of Northern States Conservation Center's publications and class lectures. He is a professional journalist for the Associated Press and has been married to Helen Alten, our Director, for 18 years.
Moving the Mountain: Guide to Moving Collections
Moving the Mountain: Guide to Moving Collections
The Science Museum of Minnesota moved 1.75 million artifacts across town to a new facility that opened on December 11, 1999. Although the actual move took place during the second half of 1999, packing collections began years earlier. Spearheaded by the Collections Services Department, planning for the move began in 1995. Because of the enormity of the task, a small army of volunteers was enlisted and trained to help Collections Services and Conservation staff pack. This manual was created from training materials developed during that process.

Lori Benson was the lead author for Moving the Mountain. As head of collections, she was the Project Director for planning the new facility  and collections move. Moving the Mountain is the course textbook for our newest offering MS 262: Moving Collections, which begins July 2 and is taught by Lori Benson.
 Our Price: $80.00
Regional Workshops
Where you can find some of our instructors this year:

Peggy Schaller

Security for the Small Museum: Practical Low and No Cost Solutions. $20 cost.

  • September 17. 2012, 10am to 3 pm: Animas Museum, 3065 w 2nd Ave, Durango, CO   
  • September 19, 2012, 1 pm to 5 pm: Wyoming State Museum, 2301 Central Ave., Cheyenne, WY 
  • September 25, 2012, 1 pm to 5 pm: Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, 1880 Gaylord St., Denver, CO 
  • September 28, 2012, 8 am to 12 pm: Golden History Center, 923 10th Street, Golden, CO

For more information:

Peggy Schaller
Toll free 1-877-757-7962

Gawain Weaver

Photograph Care and Identification Workshops

  • July 16-19: Austin, TX
  • July 30-Aug 3: Los Angeles, CA  
  • August 21-24: Wash, DC 
  • September 17-20: Philadelphia, PA
  • October 15-18: Atlanta, GA 
Introduction to the History and Technology of Photographic Materials
Join Our Mailing List
Quick Links

Northern States Conservation Center

Online courses in museum studies

About Us

Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
Moving Collections 

by Lori Benson    


Starting to think about moving a collection, no matter what the size, can seem like a daunting task. Northern States Conservation Center's new course Moving Collections gives you the information you need to make your move proceed smoothly.


Moving collections is a daunting task. Fragile items need special packing and care to be safely transported. Large, heavy or awkward items, such as dinosaurs and over-sized sculptures, require special equipment and support from local authorities. How do you design your project to meet the budget and timing demands of your administration? Are your collections over-crowded in acidic boxes and does your move include improving their storage and care? Collections often take up more room when they are stored properly. Some estimates suggest proper storage doubles or triples or quadruples the amount of space required. How do you determine your needed storage space when the collection is decompressed?


To begin, ask yourself "where am I?" "where am I going?" Then ask, "how much time do I have?" and "how much money do I have?" You have now set your limits.


From there, the process by which I normally start is to answer the questions who, what, where, why, how and when. When you can fill in those questions, you are on your way. Join us July 2 to learn more about how to plan for and move collections.  


Moving Collections provides an overview of how to plan and manage a move to avoid many pitfalls. The course includes: defining your project, developing a Request for Proposal (RFP), developing a work plan, staffing, and packing protocols. Whether you are moving part of the collection within your building or moving the entire collection to another facility, Moving Collections provides a blueprint for you to follow.


Web Resources:


For those considering a move, some useful websites include:


National Park Service Museum Management Program Museum
Handbook (Parts I and II contain the most information relevant to packing and moving a museum collection)

Smithsonian Institution, Museum Conservation Institute on moving moving, packing and shipping furniture  


Packing, Art Handling, and Collections Care Information Network  


Transporting (Northern States Conservation Center)


Examples of collections moves:  

Packing and Moving Museum Collections: How to Keep Your Sanity and Artifacts Intact (Homestead National Monument of America)   


Moving the Museum (The Spurlock Museum) 


Moving the Grant Museum 


Moving a 2 Million-Piece Geology Museum (The Burke Museum) 


Moving the Museum's Ethnographic Collection: A Conservation Approach (University Museum at University of Pennsylvania) 


The Great Museum Move (London's Natural History Museum)

Moving the Collections (National Museum of the American Indian)

Collections Accessibility Project (Logan Museum of Anthropology, Beloit University, Wisconsin)

Lori Benson, is an independent museum professional based in Maine. After a series of project positions at the Minnesota Historical Society, including Assistant Moving Coordinator, she was hired by the Science Museum of Minnesota as their first Collections Manager in 1994. She was Project Director in the Research and Collections Division for the new facility planning and move. The project was published as Moving the Mountain, the Science Museum of Minnesota Guide to Moving Collections. For years, she has taught museum studies to undergraduates and given many talks and lectures on preservation, deaccessioning, project planning and moving. She is a member of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and the Registrars' Committee of the American Association of Museums. Ms. Benson teaches MS201: Storage for Infinity, MS202: Museum Storage Facilities & Furniture, and the new course MS262: Moving Collections.
Establishing a Tribal (or any) Museum: First Steps

by Stacey Halfmoon, Claudia Nicholson, and Nancy Strickland Fields


Cultural revitalization is on the rise and many tribes are undertaking the initiative, if they haven't already, to establish tribal museums and/or cultural centers. Some tribal museums have been operating for a number of years but their focus and their mission are being reviewed and updated. Before jumping into construction or renovation, however, careful thought should be given and critical questions should be asked related to the true purpose of your museum/cultural center within a tribal setting. What does this museum/cultural center want to be within the community and how will you maintain that focus?

Purpose (& Function)
An important question to ask at the outset is "What do we want to be, a museum or a cultural center?" A museum is typically seen as an educational organization that teaches through objects and in this instance, is geared more towards a non-Native public. In the book Starting Right, a museum is defined as "an organization for evaluating and explaining the value of real things. A good museum is one in which respect for the real things that it has taken into its care underlies everything it does." Although an accurate definition for museum in the traditional sense, this definition may not entirely encompass a native approach whereas a cultural center focuses more on the needs and wants of a (tribal) community. According to Wikipedia, a cultural center is an organization, building or complex that promotes culture and arts.

We are now recognizing Native, Tribal Museums/Cultural Centers as unique organizations inherently possessing cultural values and practices different from those of establishment museums (mainstream or Euro-American museums). Of course, a facility can be both, but at a minimum you will need to clearly define at the outset what the primary purpose(s) is for your facility. By truly understanding the purpose, your museum/cultural center will find its own path to mediate between community traditions/community needs and the pressure to conduct activities in a manner more suited to establishment museums. Here are some key considerations and/or questions developed to assist you in identifying those activities or goals that may become cornerstones of your facility's mission:
  • Will we aid in preserving our community's unique history and ancestral knowledge?
  • Will our facility accommodate researchers? Tribal researchers, non-tribal researchers or both?
  • Will we aid in maintaining Native perspectives and traditional values?
  • Is our facility intended to attract tourism dollars and/or are we considered an economic development venture?
  • Will we encourage Native traditional arts and Native contemporary artistic expressions? How?
  • Will we be a collecting institution? Do we currently have a solid understanding of what objects/materials/data are to be housed in this facility?
  • Will we be media based primarily due to lack of objects?
  • Will we have a need to accommodate repatriation activities/objects?
  • Will we have language programs?
  • Do we plan to conduct community outreach and to whom?
  • Will we be disseminating information to our Native community or to the entire pubic or both?
Word of Caution: Focusing a museum/cultural facility primarily as an economic development venture can be costly and disappointing, especially to a tribal government who supported or made those assumptions. Typically, museums and/or cultural centers are not considered sound economic development ventures even in the best locations. They can be developed into successfully sustaining operations but will likely still depend on federal and state grants, tribal budget allocations, and their own in-house marketing skills & techniques.

Purpose - In Summary
For any tribal museum to be successful it is key to have the tribal government, community and other key tribal stakeholders understand and agree upon the key purpose of the museum/cultural center
from the outset. Being clear on your purpose will also help mitigate potential conflicts down the road by reminding the museum/cultural center leaders of your main purpose. Regularly scheduled reviews of that purpose/mission and how your museum is doing in meeting the mission are certainly a good idea and will provide an opportunity for adjustments and the incorporation of new trends, ideas and/or tribal directives.

Excerpt from NA256: Establishing a Tribal Museum, developed for the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers using an Institute of Museum and Library Services (a federal agency) grant.

Ms. Halfmoon is the director of Community Outreach and Public Programs for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City, OK. Ms. Nicholson is executive director of the North Star Museum of Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting in North St. Paul, MN. Ms. Fields is the Education Coordinator at the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.

MS256: Establishing a Museum, begins July 2nd. Using material developed for the course Establishing a Tribal Museum, Ms. Nicholson expands the material offerings to include all museums. Ms. Nicholson began her career in museums at the National Archives in Washington, DC. After earning her Masters Degree in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, she became Curator of Collections for the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre. After seven years, she moved to St. Paul to become a curator at the Minnesota Historical Society. She has 33 years experience in museums and historical organizations of all sizes. Ms. Nicholson was the first paid staff at the North Star Museum of Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting.
Busy Spring at Northern States Conservation Center
by Brad Bredehoft

It has been a whirlwind Spring for Northern States Conservation Center staff.

On April 21st we sponsored and attended the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries annual meeting hosted by three University of Minnesota Museums: the Weisman Art Museum, the Bell Museum of Natural History and the Goldstein Museum of Design. We met many of the AAMG members who have been participants in our Museum Studies courses as well as making new acquaintances.


A few days later, during the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, we hosted a reception to celebrate our 15th Anniversary. Several of our distinguished instructors and colleagues joined us at the Minneapolis Wells Fargo History Museum for good conversation and food. Special guest was Northern States Conservation Center's editor, Tim Huber, making his first trip away from home since his stroke in June 2011. For an update on Tim's remarkable progress see the update in this issue of Collection Caretaker.
NSCC Booth at AIC 2012
NSCC Booth at AIC 2012

At the American Institute for Conservation Annual Meeting in early May in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we highlighted our online museum classes as an Exhibitor, attended several interesting sessions on conservation outreach and met with many old and new friends and colleagues.

In our booth we gave away bracelets made of ultraviolet sensitive beads that became quite a conversation piece at the meeting. We are investigating their use as an inexpensive UV monitor for small museums. Look for them to appear on our product list soon.

Twenty people participated in our Preservation in Public Programming short course held during the AIC meeting. Chats from the exhibit hall drew in conservators attending the meeting to discuss what they learned with those in the class.


Brad Bredehoft is the Sales and Technology Manager for Northern States Conservation Center. Brad manages NSCC's business website (, administers the online training website (, manages IT for this growing small business and oversees purchase, manufacture and distribution of catalog items. Before joining NSCC Brad spent five years at the Science Museum of Minnesota as a volunteer and employee. 

Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.


Helen Alten, Director

Brad Bredehoft, Sales and Technology Manager

P.O. Box 8081, St. Paul, MN 55108   Phone: (651) 659-9420

© 2002 Northern States Conservation Center

Updated 24 January 2012