Education key to museum’s mission

A quick glance at our exhibit space, governing documents, website or promotional literature will paint a clear picture of how our museum feels about two things — education and preservation.

First used by the 31ers’ luncheon and educational programs, “Preserving Our Past to Educate the Future” really encapsulated two of the most important values of museums. Museums no longer function with intentional exclusivity but now have the primary focus of being inclusive.

If we don’t continue to promote the material we have in our collections and the new items that come in so that the public (Boulder City and its visitors, in our case) can learn about their town, conduct research, make connections to their homes or even utilize it as a cultural hub, then we aren’t doing our jobs. Museums have come quite a ways into this transition to ensure that we are primarily educational in focus, which is included as the nearly top sought-after item in the list of eligibility requirements from the American Alliance of Museums for accreditation, which is the peer-based process in which a museum can be validated for its operations and impact.

The education piece is achieved through our permanent exhibit, educational outreach programs for students using state and national standards, special exhibits and programs for adults, such as Third Thursdays, and additional programs for kids, such as our summer reading program.

Married with education, however, where we share our knowledge, is preservation. If private individuals hadn’t collected material after the dam construction was complete, kept that material safe in a central location, continued collecting during the past 80 years and worked together through formal organizations to ensure that what could be preserved was preserved, we wouldn’t exist. Although we continue to receive donations to the museum, we aren’t actively seeking acquisitions for our collections; we’re working to preserve what we have.

When you digitize an item, whether it is a photograph or a document, you not only make that item available faster to a wider audience through the Internet, you preserve that original material from human contact. If an individual appreciates an item in our collections for its intrinsic value, we happily will make that available. But if we can provide a digital copy, not only is it much easier for us to share it, but it is potentially easier for that person to use and adds further life to the item.

Utilizing PastPerfect software for museum collections, we not only will have an in-house program to digitally catalog our entire collection, from photographs of objects to locations to metadata, we essentially will be able to share this information online.

If you missed our first Museum Musings column, you can check out the sheer numbers our collections hold on our website. And if you did read it, you already can imagine the serious time and effort that has gone into and will be going into the preservation of our collections.

If you’re interested in becoming part of our education or preservation crew or want to learn more about our ongoing digitization projects, give us a call or email us.

For a quick glance at the practice of “Preserving Our Past, Educating Our Future,” check out our Damboree History page under “Events” on our website, www.BCMHA.org.

Museum Musings is written and compiled by the staff of the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum. For more information, visit, www.bchma.org.

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