What makes a collection? What do we collect?

The Salmon Arm Museum began its collection long before it opened–originally across from the cenotaph–in 1967.

It didn’t take long before its storage area was filled to the brim and the District of Salmon Arm stepped in to provide off-site space for several years. When the collection was finally reunited at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum, it felt like the new 2000 square-foot building would be lots of space. Not so.

Every week, several people come forward to offer their antiques. One year we had two (4’ x 16’) model train displays offered, one restored caterpillar, half a dozen couches, several pianos and organs (we like to call them organ donors in the museum world), numerous doilies, table cloths and sewing machines (one in pieces), a wedding dress, a forge, and many other large tools.

As a curator I appreciate that these donors are looking for a place that honours the memory of their loved ones who treasured these items. Others are looking to downsize. The Registrar of Collections and I think carefully on each offer, consult the collection, and ask the hard questions. Do we have room for these items? Can we take care of them responsibly? Do they fit the museum’s collections policy? Are they stories we need to tell?

Duplicates are easy. We can check the database but it is also so easy to check the shelves now that we are in the new space. We have enough Medalta pickling crocks. More than any of the houses at the village will ever need even when we finish the restoration of the three relocated homes onsite.

I think about the era of the Village. We collect up to 1930, but temporary displays can be created for more current exhibits like when we celebrated with the Salmar and its 70 years of community theatre.  There is no budget to purchase artefacts or archival material and we so appreciate both our donors and potential donors support and understanding when we cannot take your treasures.

Keep thinking about us though! We now have places for the things we need.