Museum Blog

Frequently Asked Questions in Museum Collections and Archives

At the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center, visitors to our museum and researchers to our Reading Room often ask us questions about how our collections and archives are organized and used. Today, we will try to do our best to answer some of our most recently asked questions.

Why doesn’t the RGRMHC have a photograph of this person, building, or house?

Our staff and volunteers try our best to keep our reference files up to date so that you can learn about individuals, buildings, businesses, and other topics in Fremont County history. However, not every person or building that has existed in this area will have a corresponding photograph or artifact in our collection. This does not mean that we do not care enough to have them represented in our museum.

For example, we do not have any photographs of Augustus Macon, a founder of Cañon City, in our collections. There may be several historical factors to explain this discrepancy:

  1. A photograph may have never been taken of him, which is an unlikely scenario.
  2. A photo was taken and has since disappeared, been destroyed, or someone owns a photograph of Macon but cannot identify the man in it.
  3. A photo exists but has not been shared with us, nor has it been donated to our collection. Our staff currently does not have the manpower to actively search, nor the funds to acquire artifacts for our collection. Our collections are largely donation-based and given to us by individuals, families, or local organizations.

In this scenario, if you do have a photograph of Augustus Macon that you are interested in sharing with the museum, but you do not want to forego the original photograph, we have a donation measure in place that allows you to do it! It is called “Loan for Duplication”, and we can scan the photograph(s) or albums that you donate to us for a specified period of time. After we return the original photographs to you, we have a digital image of it for research, exhibition, and reproduction purposes and you will still have the original!

How should I prepare a donation to the RGRMHC’s collections?

Let’s say that you have a large collection of family or club documents or antiques in a Tupperware box that you are interested in donating to the museum. We are often asked, how these items should be sent to the museum: as is or with more preparation? To assist with the process of accessioning, a museum term for incorporating artifacts into its collection, we would suggest several things.

First, if you have the time, go through the contents of the donation and organize them as best you can. This will greatly help staff and volunteers when we catalogue new donations.

Secondly, if you are donating any photographs, please identify and label them as best as you can! Information such as who is in the photograph, where and when it was taken, and what the event was is extraordinarily helpful when we’re cataloguing photographs. It is vital to get this information now because in 50 or 100 years, there might not be anyone around who can identify these facts!

Finally, if you are donating an item like a toy, a quilt, or any other object, please share any stories or information you have about it! Again, the same principle applies to this as to photographs: the more information that we can keep about that artifact now, the better we will be able to inform visitors and users of the museum in the future about its historical significance.

Why don’t you have everything in the museum on display?

This is a question that many museums are commonly asked! Simply, it is not in an artifact’s best interest to be on display forever. There are many factors in museum gallery environments that will affect them 24/7, 365 days a year. For example, paper documents and textiles are vulnerable to light damage and will fade the more time they spend on display in galleries. If someone accidentally bumps into a pedestal containing a pottery jar, it may damage it.

Our job is to mitigate and lessen those effects as much as possible to ensure that those artifacts will be around so future generations can enjoy them and learn about our local history. When an object is on display, we monitor it for light damage, humidity and temperature, bugs and other pests, dust, and physical damage. Barrier ropes in front of displays prevent us from accidentally bumping into them. By rotating the artifacts that are on display once every one to two years, we are increasing the lifespan of our collection while showcasing the diversity of items that we have in our over 85,000 artifact collection!

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