Archive files piling up as museum moves toward digital age

A collections management co-ordinator will soon be hired at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

A collections management co-ordinator will soon be hired at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

MAG hopes to post a job ad for the position to help with digitizing the museum’s collection in the coming weeks.

Once this exhaustive and long work is completed, the museum may look to removing some of its digitized collection.

But Lorna Johnson, MAG’s executive director, said that’s a long way down the road. She said while they wait for the grant money, they are in a holding pattern and will continue to cope with the space shortage.

“It’s our big dilemma,” said Johnson. “We know that there is material out there now that we should be collecting in order to document our community’s history.

“We are having to be so very selective of what we can take. Size is one of the limiting factors.”

Johnson said that’s the challenge today but it is not new because they did not have enough space when they moved into the building in the 1970s.

“Then adding to the collection and making sure it is complete is an ongoing challenge,” said Johnson.

The museum is looking to once and for all fix its space crunch over a five-year plan starting this year. At the end of 2014, Johnson said they hope to have a “best-case scenario” strategy. At the end of the five years, Johnson said they hope to have a workable solution.

“We have some things stored already offsite but that’s in a building that the city leases until the end of 2014,” said Johnson. “So we also have to find room for those things when that lease expires. The problem is acute.

“The trouble is everything you do just creates more work. If we move things to another site, then we have a staffing and an access issue because we have to function on two sites.”

Once the collection is digitalized, staff will be able to take a closer look at the collections.

MAG underwent a major restructuring in December and is implementing the changes.

Last year, the city conducted a collection storage assessment for the city archives, records management and MAG. A proposed collection storage facility was scrapped from its 10-year capital plan because the city did not want to move forward without having a solid plan in place.

Kristina Oberg, Culture Department supervisor, said the city has adequate storage space for the time being and the idea is to plan for the future so the city does not run out of space. She said the city is working with the museum to look at the next steps for all the collections.

Next month, the city and the groups will meet to look at the space requirements and talk about what comes next.

At one time, a collection storage facility was in the 10-year capital plan but it was taken out in order for the city to reassess what was needed for storage.

The city doesn’t want to move forward until a plan is in place. The strategy and the plan will be developed this year.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com