In 2019, if you visited the Chaska History Center (back when none of us could imagine our current times), you probably saw a cluster of busy people, some talking with visitors, others digging through historic newspapers, volunteers answering phones, and a keen-eyed person sorting through masses of old photos at the big table. Controlled, but quiet chaos described most of our days.
Now, imagine you are a beautiful piece of Chaska history – perhaps you’re a family photograph from 1880. Maybe you travelled across the ocean to take a place at someone’s dinner table. Or maybe you are the paper and ink that remains of a carefully kept diary. Will you find your new home here at the History Center? If you are that lucky, where will you spend the rest of your days? Will anyone ever enjoy your presence again? What will all those folks running around do with you? Am I old enough? Do I have ties to the history of this place or its people? Will visitors find me interesting? Will visiting schoolchildren be able to see through me to times when their parent’s parent’s parents were in town or nearby? Do I have the significance that would allow an historian to further their research? Will I be good enough?
Passing through a committee that answers all those questions is known as “Accession.” Successfully gaining their approval, you will find yourself in the hands (and Mind) of an archivist. The purpose of the archivist is to collect and preserve the artifacts and photos donated to the Chaska History Center and to make it possible to share these historical items with the public.
There is a detailed process that must be followed to ensure a proper storage of items and an easy retrieval for those searching for Chaska’s past. The donor and the item are given a specific number for an electronic file, a description is written, and a photo is taken. If the item is a photo, those in the picture are identified and the background is noted. Key words are assigned for easy retrieval. The History Center has an archival room with over 9,000 photos and over 4,000 artifacts, and it is in here that a new item will be stored, in a numbered box for artifacts or a file for photos.
‘’It is fascinating to see all the photos and artifacts,’’ says Carol Spalding, an archivist at the Center. ‘’It gives me a sense of accomplishment because I am helping to make these artifacts accessible to the public. And when doing it, I am part of a really nice team of people who are all contributors to our community.’’
by Julie Weise