Pictured are some rusted items that have been identified for deaccessioning at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Museum making space through deaccessioning project

The project is part of the museum’s larger Red Cross Relocation and Restoration Project

The Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin is doing some fall cleaning.

Called a deaccessioning project as part of its larger Red Cross Relocation and Restoration Project, the initiative aims to relocate items from the museum’s collection that do not fit in the collection for a number of reasons.

Raene Poisson, an artifact technician and professional museum conservator, is spearheading the project, and has come to Williams Lake from Shaunavon, Sask. to oversee its completion.

Her job is to, essentially, go through the museum’s collection and subsequent database records — including at its storage locations at the Williams Lake Airport and at the City’s public works yard — to decide what stays and recommend items for deaccessioning.

“Things that haven’t been dealt with for many, many years and what I’m doing is conservation treatment, so I need to know what the museum absolutely wants and has time to put treatment into,” Poisson said. “We have a process we go through before something can be deaccessioned. We aren’t just throwing things away.”

That process ensures the museum’s collection items aren’t haphazardly discarded.

READ MORE: New museum staff undertakes new cataloguing project

“First, donors will be contacted if one of their items has been selected for deaccessioning. Next, we have to contact all the museums and other non-profits to see if they want an item, and then after that things go out for public auction,” she said.

“And all proceeds from that go directly back into care for the collection. The very final step is complete destruction. This last step is rare, and usually only happens to severely damaged or hazardous items.”

Alex Geris, the museum manager of the MCC, said the project is long overdue as both its off-site storage locations, and the museum, itself, are overfull.

“Deaccessioning is a necessary part of collections management, because over time, things make it into the collection that don’t fit within MCC’s mandate,” Geris said. “Our collecting priorities are Williams Lake and the Cariboo Chilcotin, and many items we have are more appropriate for other regional museums. We need to remove these items so that we can focus our resources on the items that represent our community.”

Museum staff are also being trained by Poisson to examine and identify items that may be recommended for deaccessioning, which considers the item’s history and condition.

Poisson said she will be working on the project into November of this year, however, noted it will likely take a year to complete entirely.

So far, she added, the two deaccessioning meetings between museum staff, members and directors have been positive.

“We’re still looking for two or three members from the public to be a part of the meetings,” she said.

“Someone with an interest in history, or anyone concerned about things, potentially, being deaccessioned. We want to help people understand and to be a part of it.”

Poisson noted she thoroughly enjoys museum work and this Red Cross Project at the MCC.

“We get to learn about new things, and I can show all my coworkers about everything I know because they get excited about it, too,” she said.

One thing of note, she said, is the museum is not allowed to give items directly back to the public as items need to go through the correct processes before being deaccessioned.

She added it is a long, complex process, and details of MCC’s deaccessioning policy can be found in their Collections Policy available on its website.

If anyone is interested in being a part of the committee, they can e-mail the MCC at mccoffice@telus.net.

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Raene Poisson, artifact technician and professional museum conservator, is spearheading the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin’s deaccessioning project — part of an undertaking within its larger Red Cross Relocation and Restoration Project. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

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