ASU museum receives accreditation - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

ASU museum receives accreditation

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-The museum at Arkansas State University recently received some rare recognition.

It was reaccredited by the American Association of Museums, which is the highest form of accreditation in the United States.

Only five percent of museums in the country are accredited by this organization.

Dr. Marti Allen, the Director of the ASU Museum, says getting accredited is an enormous venture.

"Accreditation is a painstaking, laborious operation during which peers from other museums come and examine every facet of your operations, finances, code of ethics, collections, collection plans, strategic plans, current staff and their qualifications, preservation of the collections, and much more."

It took Allen and museum staff over three years to prepare for the accreditation inspection.

Dr. Allen has worked in this field for thirty years and says this type of work is something you definitely need to be passionate about.

"Objects have a very special way of telling you a story. You can not deny the existence of these objects. They have something to say that nothing else on earth can say. It's all a part of our history telling us where we came from."

Allen says she and museum staff are thrilled to receive this recognition.

"It's extremely gratifying. We've worked really hard. We felt we were doing a good job and making high standard efforts and it's good to see that confirmed by our own peers in the field. So, it's great."

Dr. Allen says that each individual object that comes into the museum must be cataloged.

"When an object comes into the museum it is assigned a discreet number. That number is made up of four parts. No other object in the museum then has this number and this number follows the object throughout it's life. The number that is placed on the object is also reversible because we don't want anything permanent done to the object. Any documentation or photographs related to this object now falls under that number. It's like a credential."

Museum Curator of Collections, Julie MacDonald, says preserving the objects that come in requires a vast knowledge of materials and what things effect them.

"We look at what the object is, what material it's made of. And each material is going to have different needs and wants. For instance, with paper light is going to effect it. Temperature is going to effect it . They're the main things you need to look at, temperature and humidity. And so, we monitor those. We have data loggers, which are little tiny computers that monitor temperature, humidity and dew points every twelve minutes."

MacDonald then goes over that information to make sure there are no problems, like a spike in temperature, to make sure the artifacts are living in the condition they need.

MacDonald says one of the most interesting artifacts the museum holds is a series of seventy-one letters written by a gentleman during the Civil War era.

"I think the Heyatt letters are one of my favorites because they are Arkansas based and the man who wrote them was amazingly eloquent for a young man of that era. I've been one of the few people lucky enough to read his letters in sequence."

MacDonald says his first letters begin at the University of Mississippi.

Then the war has broken out and Benjamin is trying to decide what to do.

They continue with him leaving home and joining the Arkansas 3rd Infantry.

Those letters then carry you through the Civil War to it's end and his return home.

Other interesting items in the museum are a cast iron coffin from the 1850s, a two hundred year old blanket and a letter written and signed by John Adams.

Dr. Allen says this field requires a certain amount of respect and passion for history.

"The preservation of our heritage is one of our singular most important things we do, certainly my life. All of these artifacts have a very special story to tell and unless you've got that trained eye, you can find it, discover it, describe it and share it with people so they too can see it."

MacDonald says while she loves her work and considers herself lucky to be among such treasured items, it doesn't mean much if they don't get to share it with others.

"I love being here and coming to work everyday, but we want others to come in and see it too. We want the public to come in and be amazed and inspired and ask questions. Without that, it doesn't mean as much. The public is why we're here."

For more information about Arkansas State University's Museum, log onto their website.

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