Hey, I’m Steve!
Since starting at the Elgin County Railway Museum in September 2020 as a Digitizing and Rehousing Clerk I have learned so many things about how museums operate that I had not even thought about before working here! Prior to working at the ECRM I had only worked in an educational role at other museums, interacting with visitors rather than the museum’s collection. My role here was to work on rehousing parts of the collection inside newly acquired storage units, and to digitize some archival material to make it easier to access. Both of these tasks were new and interesting to me and taught me about how a museum organizes its collection, although I ended up spending most of my time with the rehousing project.
Aside from the physical labour involved in transporting the museum’s artifacts from the upstairs collections room to the storage units in the rolling stock gallery, I was responsible for ensuring all the artifacts were properly catalogued. This was a new experience for me, and I learned firstly how a museum accessions objects into its collection. Once an artifact has been deemed within the mandate of the collection, it needs to be given a unique accession number which is attached to the object in a non-destructive and removable way. I learned how to apply these numbers to metal objects using specific nail polish and acid-free archival pens. I also learned about the organizational system of the museum, and specifically the museum database. Although different museums use different database software, the information required about each artifact’s description, provenance, and history is necessary for all systems. Working with the database was challenging but rewarding, as there was a lack of consistency across entries that made finding specific artifacts difficult, and some artifacts were missing database entries entirely. Fortunately over the last few months I have found or created entries for all of the artifacts which are now stored in the storage units, so all of these artifacts can now be easily located both in the physical space and the digital record!
When I started at the ECRM I expected my role to be a somewhat uninteresting one, working in an archive, but one which would provide me valuable insight and experience for a future career working at heritage sites. Fortunately, only the latter occurred: this work has been highly educational and rewarding, while also being one of the most interesting jobs I have ever had! Reorganizing and sorting through the artifacts in the collection and learning about both museum procedure and the train-related artifacts themselves has been fascinating.
I am excited to know that my time at the ECRM is not yet over! I have been offered another position on an 11-month contract as Collection Coordinator, and I’m looking forward to learning even more in this new position. I hope to be able to find similarly gratifying positions at other museums or heritage sites in the future.
— Steve Eaton, Collections Rehousing & Cataloguing Clerk (Sep 2020 – Mar 2021), now Collection Coordinator (Apr 2021 – Feb 2022)