Public History Boot Camp: Assessing Your Collection

On April 20, 2016, “Assessing Your Collection: New Jersey’s CAPES and Artifact Assessment Program” will take place at Rutgers-Camden from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Campus Center.

Since 1989, nearly 500 small to mid-sized history organizations with library, manuscript, archival, and photographic holdings have used the CAPES program to chart a practical course for improving collection preservation and research access. Operated by the New Jersey Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) and funded by the New Jersey Historical Commission, CAPES (Caucus Archival Projects Evaluation Service) provides eligible institutions and organizations with free consultancies by professional archivists, who conduct on-site surveys and needs assessments of collections and facilities, formalized in detailed reports. Most importantly, CAPES reports contain prioritized recommendations and action steps for improvement that institutions’ staff and boards can use to obtain grant funding for implementation.

New Jersey’s new Artifact Assessment Program, offered by the New Jersey Association of Museums, is closely modeled after the successful CAPES program and will complement existing archival surveys. The Artifact Assessment Program seeks to connect collection care professionals with nonprofit historical societies and museums and provides free professional evaluations of collections, storage, and exhibition areas. Collection surveys evaluate environmental conditions in storage and exhibition areas, condition of artifacts, storage arrangement and collection management processes, as well as documentation systems, processes, and intellectual access. Follow-up programs can help institutions evaluate specific collections or projects, develop disaster preparedness plans, evaluate new space, define grant projects, and more.

Workshop participants will also be introduced to the New Jersey Cultural Alliance Response (NJCAR) Cultural Assets GIS Mapping Pilot Project, now underway in Ocean County, and the efforts underway to account for the state’s cultural assets and organizations.

This workshop is intended for staff and volunteers at New Jersey’s many small museums, historical societies, and historic sites with archival and artifact collections. It will explore the creation of these programs, their early endeavors, and the programs’ future.  A how-to section will be presented at the end of the session for organizations seeking to apply for these free services.

Workshop Leaders
Karl J. Niederer is a co-founder of the CAPES program. His career spans nearly four decades, including 34 years as a staff member and director in New Jersey State Archives. He has served in various capacities in professional associations, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, Council of State Archivists, and Society of American Archivists. He currently serves as Assistant for Strategic Partnerships on the staff of the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, Department of Environmental Protection, and is Vice Chair of the New Jersey Cultural Alliance for Response (NJCAR).

Nicholas J. Wood manages the Arts & History regrant programs for the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission and provides technical assistance to area nonprofits. His past work experience has focused on predominantly small historical museums and societies. He currently serves as the Vice President and Collections Chair of the New Jersey Association of Museums and is an at-large member of the New Jersey Cultural Alliance for Response.

Joshua Lisowski is the Collection and Preservation Director at the Camden County Historical Society. He was raised in the heart of the anthracite coal region (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) before discovering the field of public history while earning his undergraduate degree from East Stroudsburg University. In 2014, he graduated from the Public History graduate program at Rutgers University-Camden. Josh will discuss the CAPES process from a participant perspective: CCHS recently (2015) completed a CAPES evaluation, and also participated in the program in 1991.

Rutgers-Camden is a short walk from the City Hall stop of the PATCO high speed line and from the Cooper Street stop of the NJ Transit River Line. Attendees may park free of charge in the Camden County Garage, behind the University Bookstore (take ticket, and before returning to your vehicle, inform the concierge desk inside the main facility of what event you were attending).

Registration is $15 and includes lunch. For tickets, click here.

This workshop is co-sponsored by MARCH and the New Jersey Historical Commission

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