Preparing Colby Collection for Posterity
Animportant and very extensive project is taking place at the Colby-Curtis Museum, and I’m not referring to the new roof that is being completed. By the time the “Collection Management Project” is finished, every item in the Colby-Curtis collec-
tion, including the objects in every room, cupboard, nook and cranny of Carrollcroft and all the objects in the huge barn, will have been photographed, documented and entered into an accessible data base.
At the helm of this project is Patrick LeBrun, the Colby-Curtis’ resident Museum Technician who has previously catalogued such prestigious collections as that of the Chateau ame a and the oseph Armand ombardier useum. “I was at the Bombardier Museum for about three years; I catalogued the entire collection. There were lots of snow machines and lots of items related to the ‘tinkerings’ of Joseph Bombardier. It was like uncovering the lab of Frankenstein,” said Mr. LeBrun in an interview with the Stanstead Journal.
“Cataloguing a museum’s inventory is like doing research. I have to describe each artefact and figure out what they are, what they were used for. When I first stumbled on the butter paddle here in the kitchen I said ‘What is that?’ I sometimes have to ask seniors about the objects and, sometimes, the items stay unknown,” he continued.
Taking multiple photographs of each item from different angles is also part of the process. “I have set up a photo studio with a very clean backdrop. Now I’ve got to build a bigger backdrop for the museum’s larger pieces,” said the technician.
“Right now, I’m working on the museum’s military collection. Just last week I found a book and some good photographs of the Stanstead ragoons who were active prior to the First World War. Being a collector of military artefacts myself, I found it really interesting to get a good look at their badges and uniforms. Sadly, we only have one cap with the insignia of the ragoons here at the museum. There should be more artefacts of the ragoons in this area somewhere,” mentioned Mr. LeBrun.
Patrick scanned the delicate photos of the ragoons and, because he is also a graphic artist, he can fix the colours in the scanned photos. He also recently found a cardboard box filled with five to six hundred military items, including military buttons in plastic baggies and on strings, each item to be photographed and documented. Thanks to a grant from Canadian Heritage’s Museum Assistance Program, Patrick now has a helper, Virginie Caron, for six months to tackle the momentous task. “The Colby-Curtis has a huge inventory. But now that Virginie is helping, when I have to deal with other tasks at the museum the wheel keeps on turning,” said Patrick.
The benefits of cataloguing the museum’s entire collection are many. “We’ll now have photographic markers of every object, so if we take it out in three years we can see if it has been damaged in storage and that we need to do something to preserve it better. And now, because each object can be checked out well on the computer, there will be less manipulation of the objects,” he explained. Included in the information about each object will also be its exact physical location at the museum. “That’s the whole point: to be able to find everything!”
A collector of interesting cultural artefacts like vintage toys and board games himself, Patrick enjoys his work. “I learn and discover about new stuff every day, and sometimes find boxes full of objects. It’s like a treasure quest.”
The Director and Curator of the Colby-Curtis Museum, Chloe Southam, is happy with how this immense project is progressing. “We’re very pleased to have gained momentum with this project now that two people are working on it. Once the entire collection is catalogued and digitalized we plan to make it available on a website where it can be consulted by the public. It will take time but it is our goal to share the collection with the public; that’s our mission,” commented Ms. Southam.
In the summer of 2014, the Stanstead Historical Society/ Colby-Curtis Museum received a grant of $48,448 from the “Museum Assistance Program” offered by Heritage Canada. The grant was obtained in order to complete the project entitled: ise en place du logiciel de gestion de la collection Past Perfect et amenagement de l’entreposage
White-gloved hands are needed when examining artefacts like this helmet of the 57th Regiment, known today as the Sherbrooke Hussars, that Patrick LeBrun is holding.
Virginie Caron is now helping to catalogue the Colby-Curtis collection.