It can take several hours, perhaps even days, to archive a piece of history. Never mind the cost of archiving artifacts.
So why go to all that trouble caring for items that were thought to be useful so many years ago, but now are considered obsolete? The answer is simple, the president of the Franklin County Historical Society said.
“Through artifacts, our county history comes alive,” Lynda Alderman said. “To actually see something associated with an event that has previously been experienced in the abstract is powerful.”
Representatives from the Franklin County Historical Society presented their annual report to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners Monday. The society receives a portion of its funding from Franklin County tax dollars.
The society used to accept anything and everything that was old, Alderman said. Now the requirements are much more stringent, she said. The artifact must have historical significance to Franklin County and be in good enough condition that it can be maintained, Alderman said.
“We do this in order to preserve the rich history of that area through the collection and maintenance of records and artifacts,” Alderman said, quoting from the society’s mission statement.
A collections committee evaluates items that are offered to the archives. Some of the determining factors about what is accepted include whether the object will help fulfill the society’s mission of educating people about the county’s history, if it has a good story associated with it and if the item already is found in the archives, Susan Geiss, the society’s archivist, said.The process of cataloging an artifact involves many different elements. As an example, representatives from the society presented a dress uniform from a Franklin County U.S. Army Calvary veteran of the Iraq war. Each element of the uniform had to be identified, photographed, labeled, cleaned, cataloged in the computer and stored, Deb Barker, historical society director, said. The uniform had 19 individual pieces, including metals and buttons, that needed to go through the process.
“We measure everything. We describe everything,” Barker said. “It’s really an involved process.”
New technology has made cataloging and searching for artifacts easier, Barker said. Collections quickly can be searched and artifacts found using a simple search on the collection computer.
“That software enables us to put in both the information we have on the object and its condition and its story, its history, but also a battery of photographs,” Barker said.
If an artifact, like the Calvary uniform, is properly preserved, it’s possible to maintain it for a few hundred years.
Many of the society’s artifacts are on display at the Old Depot Museum, 135 W. Tecumseh St., Ottawa. The museum is closed for the winter months, but is expected to open again in March.