Keeping Track of What We Have

But first, a few oddments of info (oh, dear). Most sites on the PHMC's Trails of History will be closed on Monday, Oct. 10 for Columbus Day, with the exception of Drake Well Museum, Fort Pitt Museum, the Railroad Museum of PA, and (I think) Washington Crossing Historic Park. The October program listings are full of interesting things to do this weekend and beyond.

In the midst of working with Sean Adkins on last week's guest post about #AskAnArchivist, I missed the fact that it was the 400th Trailheads post since we started this blog in August of 2009. Whew.

I've adapted this week's post from material provided by David Dunn, chief of special projects for the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. Dave is overseeing a collections inventory at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum as part of PHMC's Collections Advancement Project (CAP).

Harvest Days, at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, is this weekend, Oct. 8-9
Beginning in April of this year, the PHMC assigned David Dunn to lead a team for the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums (BHSM) that would begin conducting a physical inventory of all collections spaces at the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum. The team will eventually consist of two full-time members, but for now Dunn is working with curators from the PHMC’s Collections Advancement Project (CAP) and volunteers that he is training to assist with the work [more on that later].

Over the course of several decades in the early 20th century, brothers Henry and George Landis assembled a massive and diverse collection of decorative arts, fine arts and agricultural implements and tools, which was turned over to the state in 1953 to be administered by PHMC as the Landis Valley Museum. In addition to the original Landis donation, for the next 60 years the Museum continued to selectively add items to the collection, bringing the estimated total of objects in the collection to approximately 150,000 items today. (Learn more about the history of Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum.)

The last complete physical inventory of the Landis Valley collection was conducted in 1983, although the site’s curators and other staff regularly conduct spot inventories of high-traffic buildings and public areas (in addition to their many other ongoing responsibilities caring for and exhibiting this large collection). The earlier inventory was recorded on paper forms, so updating and searching (activities we now take for granted with the advent of computer databases and spreadsheets) were extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible.

Project work began on the 3rd Floor Mezzanine of the Landis Collections Gallery (photo by Landis Valley curator Bruce Bomberger)
One of the first steps of the 2016 inventory project was to gather collections data (including digital images) and align it with PHMC collections management software (a new system is coming on line as we speak, so that created some challenges as well). With the existing data gathered and a map of the collections storage areas created, the physical inventory began in June, starting on the top level of the Landis Collections Gallery. Shelf by shelf, Dunn and various team members examine each object – one person calling out the accessions number, a brief description, measurements, and basic condition and the other recording the data on the laptop. If an object hasn’t already been photographed for the records, the caller or recorder also takes a digital image that is labeled with the object’s catalog number.

BHSM CAP curator Rachel Yerger assists David Dunn with inventory (photo by Bruce Bomberger)
Items inventoried as of late August included more than 400 pieces of late 19th- and early 20th-century office equipment, a carousel horse, and a variety of English ceramic forms including transfer printed hollowware, yellowware, mochaware, hotel china, Gaudy Dutch, and Gaudy Welsh collected by the Landis brothers at regional auctions over several decades.

The process is considerably more involved and time-consuming than we have space to convey here. If you’re interested in learning first-hand about the inventory process and have some free time during the week, you may want to offer your services as a volunteer. Contact David Dunn at or 717/569-0401, ext. 230, to discuss opportunities to support this important effort.

Volunteer Sharon O'Neal-Lehner assists as recorder for Landis Valley inventory


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