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Just One More Thing: Adventures in Organizing an Archive

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Archives Storage Area, 2013The following was written by our volunteer extraordinaire Sue after a very exciting day reorganizing one of five collections storage areas at the Willamette Heritage Center.  A huge “Thanks!” goes out to Sue, David, Adam and all the others that made this move possible. I’ve been showing off our newly discovered space to any and everybody unfortunate enough to come through the building.  Sometimes they have to tour it twice.

By: Susanne Ranseen

Some would think that archiving is an easy low stress job where the heaviest thing you move is boxes or maybe a few books. If you think that or know somebody who thinks that, I am here to inform you that your imagination has deceived you. Though archiving requires the moving of several boxes few are light weight and many collections involve more than just boxes and books.

Take for example the storage room for the archive here.  It is filled to the brim with, yes boxes of various things and books of various ages and types, but also assorted collection pieces. So what are these assorted collection pieces? In our back room they range from arrowheads to the front of a bank and even one dam. Yes, you read me right, one dam. Remember this dam it will come in again later in the story.

The day started last Friday with the need to re-box a few arrowheads. Simple enough you say, but one thing leads to another in an archive. Since we were putting away the arrowheads we decided to move the case they where in to another building. But to move the case we needed to move items out of the way to get it out of the archive. So we moved a button making machine, which leads to the moving of a shoe making machine, which leads to the realization that we should also move a couch to make more room for reorganizing the space better.

The moving of this couch required the moving of some small but fragile pieces such as a vase and water pitcher, but to make space for them required the moving of typeset and once we moved that it reminded use that we needed to move a few baby buggies. So the case was set aside for the moment as we returned to the couch. Remember that dam I mentioned?  It is not a whole dam, which would be a little ridiculous, but it is the 4 very large, very heavy cast iron pieces to make the dam move and these pieces were under the couch.  So we shuffled about the various pieces of the dam and trust me shuffling is the polite term for words used in moving this dam once more about the little available space within the backroom of the archive.

So, dam moved, couch shifted, which reminds us that in order to move the case we also need to shift a few more things like the large chest in the way.  If we are going to shift that chest, why not the two others by the baby buggies that we are going to move anyways. So one chest is moved and the case is moved closer to the door, but it still has not found its way out of the door. Now we turn to the chests.

To get to the chest a few large framed pieces must be moved. To move these large framed pieces a switch board for telephones must be moved, but to move that requires more shuffling of a barbers’ chair and a church pew. That reminds us sometime in the future the other church pew and possibly that couch could also be removed from the archive…but back to those large framed pieces. With the removal of some shelves the pew is moved the pictures are out and the chests are now accessible. “But, where to put them?”

Well, as we pondered that, we finally moved the case.  Yes, you remember the case this all started with? We finally got it out of the archive and into another building to be used for future exhibits. We shift a few other boxes and tables and find a good place for those chests. But, there is one problem.  That good, wonderful place for the chest is blocked by a paper cutter.

Now this paper cutter is no small or light piece that can be easily moved about the room willy-nilly. It is bolted down to a wooden table made for it, has a blade that could cut through your arm, and is cast out of iron and steel. It is the very definition of old industrial machinery and it is in the way. We try to move it and can’t, so we enlist more help and still can’t move it. A pallet is brought in and it is not only to awkward to move but breaks one of them. But, we are on a course and no looking back. While one person detaches the paper cutter from its table we others go back to moving items.

We move the baby buggies onto a piano, which move other assorted equipment and items, including a corner stone of a building under and around the piano, and finally reach the back of the front of the bank. You remember the bank I mentioned it earlier? We will get back to it because now the paper cutter is loose from its base and ready to be moved.

It takes two people caring the paper cutter with a number of stops to not drop it, two people caring the table with stops to not run into the people carrying the paper cutter, and two other people to get doors. Do not forget the crowd of people looking on not helping. So a short 30 minutes later, the paper cutter is in large storage, our extra help is done for the day, and we are back to the archive.

The chests are moved on top of a safe that only has to be moved slightly to work with them. It is ok.  The safe is on wheels. We revel in the space and focus on our last objective for the day: the space behind the bank front.

Now this space is not a very large space but in an archive any space is worth its metaphorical weight in gold. Rocking chairs are moved, other pieces are taken apart and stashed under the bank, boxes are moved away from the bank, and a most importantly space is made.

Oh the joy over space and accessibility.  A few more things are moved around to better suit this glorious new space. We show of the new space and you would think that someone had just given us a thousand dollars.

I trip over something in my revelry. “Oh, Dam!” In an archive it is always just one more thing.

2016-10-20T14:56:30+00:00January 17th, 2013|Categories: Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

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