Friday, February 1, 2013

VAM Circuit Riders Visit the Old Coast Guard Station Museum in Virginia Beach

“For foot candles, it’s a little high for paper, but not that bad.” – Jeanne Niccolls
If you know what the quote above means, then maybe your job has something to do with care and conservation of your museum’s collections. VAM staff members were privileged to accompany our Circuit Rider team of a curator (Jeanne Niccolls) and an archivist (Bradley Wiles) to the Old Coast Guard Station Museum (OCGSM) in Virginia Beach for their one-day mini needs assessment of the collections and storage areas. It was fascinating to see the process, and to hear about the challenges faced by those who are charged with the stewardship of museum collections.
While every collecting institution has its challenges, those at the OCGSM are unique indeed. I had this thought as I looked out from the collections storage area, enjoying the million-dollar view of the Atlantic Ocean, with its wisps of salty foam being blown around by humid ocean breezes. Humidity, variations in heat/cold, sunlight, salt, and sand- not to mention threats posed by tropical storms and hurricanes - are all part of the environment where the collections of the Old Coast Guard Station Museum are held. Theirs is quite a challenge indeed. As we walked through the museum and the collections area, I overheard museum staff (Director Kathryn Fisher, Registrar Leslie Small, and Educator Darcy Nelson were in attendance for the visit) and Circuit Riders discussing the following issues, to name just a few:
  • Lighting and pest control
  • Budget issues when different entities own the building vs. the collections that the building houses
  • Accessibility of collections for monitoring purposes
  • Collections insurance
The visit made me wonder – “Where do you begin?” with collections management. Apparently my question was not unique. Said Kathryn Fisher, director of the OCGSM, “I didn’t know where to start…. All I could see were the brambles, regardless of there being a forest beyond.” Well, one of the things that Kathryn started with was welcoming a visit from VAM’s Circuit Riders. After the visit, the VAM Circuit Riders provide participating museums with a detailed report that outlines recommendations for collections priorities and indicates simple - usually inexpensive - actions that can be taken immediately or in the next couple of years, and occasionally long term plans/suggestions that may require budget planning.

Find out more about Circuit Riders as well as the Old Coast Guard Station Museum in the upcoming Spring edition of the VAM Voice member newsmagazine. Interested in applying for a Circuit Rider visit? Find out more online at

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