We have another entry today from Kristen Campbell that sheds light on another aspect of her internship at Gettysburg National Military Park this past summer. Today, she gives us some insight into the exacting process of maintaining an accurate inventory of the park's archival materials and also allows us a peek at John Wilkes Booth's dressing gown.
Performing inventory is incredibly important. Since every object is a valuable part of American history, we must routinely check that every object is in fact there! Theft, mismanagement of a collection, and misplacement can all cause artifacts to go missing if they are not carefully accounted for. Gettysburg is constructing a new Visitor's Center, and the move from the old building to the new one makes it especially important to keep a running inventory of the collection. As anyone who has ever moved from one home to another knows, some things seem to disappear among the sea of boxes unless one keeps careful track of each item. When I first arrived at the park, this was my job: check to make sure every item is in its proper place. The park uses a special computer database to keep a detailed catalogue of every item in the collection. Using this database, I printed out an inventory of the contents of every cabinet, shelf, and box. I then searched through every cabinet, shelf, and box to make sure that everything was in fact in its proper place and that everything that appeared in the drawer also appeared in the database. That involved a lot of searching for items as large as cannon and as small as a single bullet. The job was tedious but also a bit fun, as it was neat for me to explore the collection. I found some interesting things: Abner Doubleday's diploma from West Point, John Wilkes Booth's dressing gown, even an intricately carved prosthetic arm. The process took weeks, but it was worth it. The park must submit a randomized inventory to the Department of the Interior every year to demonstrate that the collections are being properly cared for. When they sent us the randomized list we were quickly and accurately able to account for everything on it.
Moving every little arrowhead, button, glass shard, and bullet into the proper box.
John Wilkes Booth's dressing gown in the textile racks.