Volunteer Spotlight - Yvonne Welter
The never-ending job of selecting, organizing, categorizing and entering the artifacts of the Chaska History Center into a database is led by volunteer Yvonne Welter. Starting in 2012, at the invitation of her volunteer friend Sue Born, Yvonne has worked tirelessly and steadily to inspect and organize donated articles from the past decades.
In the days before computers and software came to the Chaska History Center, volunteers relied on founding member Tracy D. Swanson’s memory of where artifacts were stored. Starting in historical society volunteers’ garages and moving to the second floor of the Christian P. Klein mansion until 2003, when they moved to the Brinkhaus Livery Stable building, the collection of artifacts was small enough to rely on Tracy’s impeccable memory. After the move to the present livery stable location, however, the society received many more donations, and the memory-based system was no longer adequate. Thus, the database archiving system was born.
Using a process used by most museums, including Carver County’s, Yvonne and others rely on the information given on donor-completed Deed Sheets to assign numbers and organize artifacts. These are handwritten records of an article’s “story”, known in the museum world as “provenance.” It includes a detailed description of the item(s) and its purpose and history, as well as transfer of ownership to the museum. Volunteers add information such as size, weight, category, storage location, and identification number. A “Nomenclature Book” common to all museums is a critical tool to help pinpoint the identity of an artifact (How do you determine whether an item should be called a “cup”, “glass”, “mug”, or “tumbler”?), and to associate key reference words with the article so it can be found in a Search process.
In recent years, Yvonne has been glad to have electronic means to store digital photos and to speed that search process, but it has taken many thousands of hours to enter the critical data from the thousands of Deed Sheets for artifacts in the collection. Her dedication and, above all, her patience have produced a great tool to keep the historical artifacts organized and available for use in displays, to help individuals with their research, and to assist other museums with their needs. “Yvonne is very detail-oriented, self-directed, and patient with those of us who are abstract-random—the perfect person for leading the organization of the collection,” stated society president Lisa Oberski.
In addition to her job as head artifact archiver, Yvonne is a member of the Accessions Committee that determines whether donations are a good fit for the collection, and she is a valued board member. She looks forward to using online technology that will allow widespread access to the Chaska History Center index of artifacts, providing even more value to the community of Chaska.
By Neil Wingert for the Chaska Historical Society