Sarah Pusey is the unofficial archivist for the Museum of the American Indian. She volunteered originally to complete an inventory of the museum’s cultural artifact collection and align it with accession paperwork. The Herculean task of emptying innumerable boxes of cultural artifacts and entering their information into Past Perfect, a museum database, had been completed from 2006-2009. In 2013 Colleen Hicks, the then Director, helped define new tasks, purchased items necessary for conservation, and invited two interns to help with two collections: the pottery and the baskets. The inventory had begun.
Not so fast, Sarah found. A collection of American Indian cultural artifacts that had been on loan to the museum was inventoried, packed, and delivered to its owners. Thousands of archaeological artifacts from the original excavation of the Miwok Park site were measured, labeled, then packed and stored. A large collection of pottery which had been stored at the museum for years was inventoried, packed, and returned to its owners. The inventory was put on hold.
Sarah enjoys the nitty-gritty of managing the collection: wrapping items in new tissue, finding the right box, changing a faded tag. The objects are useful and beautiful. There is the occasional "wow!" moment, something so beautiful it takes her breath away. She has a fondness for the rattles, so many from so many different cultures. They feel homely. There are mysteries, not unusual for a collection whose origin is in the 1960s. Sometimes objects that have been listed as “missing” appear. How was it missed? Or, a picture is referred to. Where is it? Not every mystery is solved. Next time, perhaps. She also likes the park.
At one point, three years ago, the Director and Board of the museum decided that the collection should be closed, no more new pieces accepted. The museum has just enough room for the current collection of some 1,200 artifacts, including more than 250 baskets, and there remains the necessity to inventory the collection anew and align the items with the accession paperwork. Sarah tells us this is her last hurrah. She will finish the job, and she will help the new director showcase the collections in the new year one we are all looking forward to.