A Kodiak museum is creating a digital archive of its entire collection

Kodiak History Museum workers
Kodiak History Museum workers are taking digital images of items in the museum’s collection. (Courtesy Margaret Greutert/Kodiak History Museum)

The Kodiak History Museum received a $48,000 federal grant last fall to digitize its entire collection in an effort to improve access to some of the museum’s items that aren’t currently on display.

The project began in November of last year, when the museum received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a government agency, to create a digital archive. Margaret Greutert is the collection manager and grants coordinator for the Kodiak History Museum. 

“It’s to photograph every single one of our objects in our museum collection, put them on our database, and then make those images public in 2024,” she said.

She said part of the project is to improve the museum’s transparency. 

“We’ve had only about 10% of our collections on display right now and so we need to figure out ways to make those more accessible for people so people know what we have, we do hold all of these things in public trust,” she said.

Kodiak History Museum workers
Workers hope to take two to three digital images each of about 2,300 objects in the Kodiak History Museum’s collection. (Courtesy Margaret Greutert/Kodiak History Museum)

But Greutert says another part of wanting to photograph everything is because many of the items will move soon. 

“We store over 2,300 objects and 1,300 archive collections in this building. It’s a 200-year-old building, it’s not great for that and so in the next few years, we’re partnering with the Alutiiq Museum to hopefully move some of our stuff into a new facility,” she said. 

While they hope nothing is damaged in the move, museum staff want to have each item documented before they’re transported. 

“We’re taking 2-3 images of each object, so like a front and a back and maybe a detail of each object,” she said. 

Tiffany Cannon is a museum assistant and one of the folks operating the museum’s in-house studio. The studio has a small, white background with a few modest lights and a tripod to ensure consistency with the images. 

She says it took a while to learn how to use the camera and get set up, but she loves seeing the museum’s pieces in detail – and in a new perspective. 

“A lot of what we have is art, and not even just paintings or things like that, but hand-woven baskets and taxidermy. Just all kinds of things that people have painstakingly crafted and you can just see so much of the beauty and you can really appreciate the items that we have through these images,” she said.

Cannon says she’s excited to be part of the project and help the museum share its collection with a broader audience

“It’s going to be nice that people far away are able to go to our website and if they’re researching and want to know something about the baskets of Alaska or something like that, that they have that available now,” she said.

Once objects are online, they will be tagged with searchable keywords. Museum staff anticipate the project will be completed in May of next year and they plan to continue to add their other collections for public viewing online as well. 

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