Historical Society adopts nationally recognized collections standards

November 1, 2023

Historical Society adopts nationally recognized collections standards

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Historical Society was founded in 1937. Since that time, the Society has accumulated over 150,000 artifacts, photographs, and documents. Those items are on display or in archives located at three facilities, Historic White Pine Village in Pere Marquette Township, the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum in Ludington and the recently opened Mason County Research Center in Ludington. While all the items have a certain level of historical value, not all of those items are necessarily historical significant to the mission of the Society. For this reason, the Society has recently implemented new standards for its collection.

The Society’s collections policy aligns with the standards created by the American Alliance of Museums, said Rebecca Berringer, executive director of the MCHS.

“Over the past 80 years, we have built up an impressive collection,” Berringer said. “This was vamped up beginning in the late 1960s and into the 1980s as the Society developed Historical White Pine Village and needed to fill the buildings there with historical items. We now find ourselves in a position of focusing on what items hold significance to Mason County.”

Berringer said the Society is always looking for documents and photographs that are directly connected to Mason County.

“Photographs should be identified with as much information as possible,” she said. “The minimum amount of information should be identification of the people or the place where the photograph was taken. Ideally, we would like to know those things along with the year and any background to the photograph. The information should be factual, though. An approximate year is OK, as long as there is some evidence backing up the information.”

Documents such as personal letters, biographies, family trees, or other special items are also good additions to the collection. Newspaper clippings about specific people or newsworthy events may be useful, but the Society does have an extensive collection of newspapers.

“We have an entire vault that is dedicated to the Society’s newspaper collection, which dates back to the 1870s,” said Rob Alway, MCHS collections committee chair. “Specific newspaper clippings can be useful to allow us to input that information into our database and we certainly do not mind reviewing a particular newspaper, because there is a chance that we may not have that particular edition in the collection.”

The Society has established a collections committee that reviews all donations. That committee has also been tasked with meticulously going through the Society’s current collection and determining if items are aligned with the MCHS’s mission which is:

  • To foster a deeper understanding of and appreciation for Mason County history.
  • To collect, preserve, and present for viewing historically important artifacts, archives, and buildings of the inhabitants of Mason County.
  • To stimulate and encourage the interpretation of Mason County’s past through publications, educational programs, and related historical activities.
  • To cooperate with appropriate individuals, organizations, and institutions on the local and state level in projects and activities which promote and sustain a general interest in history and preservation.

“Items that typically require deeper scrutiny are those that may not have a direct connection to Mason County history,” said Berringer. “Many of these items may have sentimental value to a family but does it have a historical significance to Mason County? This doesn’t meet that the Society isn’t interested in a particular artifact, however. There are certainly items out there that are unique and therefore hold a historical significance worth preserving in an archival collection. Our committee certainly wants to review any item that a resident may deem archivable. If it doesn’t mean our mission, we may be able to make recommendations on other organizations that may be interested as well.”

The opening of the Mason County Research Center at 130 E. Ludington Ave., has improved the Society’s abilities to properly archive historical items. However, there is still a limited amount of space.

“Modern technology now allows us to preserve many items digitally,” Alway said. “This not only means that family members can keep their original items but they can share their family photographs and documents with the Society for posterity, assuring that their stories continue and that they are remembered.”

For this reason, the Society will be offering Scanning Nights over the winter.

  During a Scanning Night, county residents will have the opportunity to bring some of their family’s historical photographs and documents to be digitally preserved.

“We will have a variety of devices available from flatbed and document scanners for smaller items to a camera with lighting for larger items,” Alway said. “A high resolution scan of a photograph or document not only preserves the document digitally but also creates the ability to make a quality print of that item.”

The dates for Scanner Nights will be announced soon.

Anyone wishing to donate an item to the Mason County Historical Society may call 231-843-4808 or email amber@mchshistory.org.

“We encourage people to call or email us rather than just bringing items in,” Berringer said. “This will give our committee a chance to review the items in advance.”

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