County museum to thin out unnecessary artifacts

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Beaverhead County Museum trustee board decided to get rid of some of its donated artifacts last week, clearing out some space at a rented storage unit in town. But many more need review and decisions on their fate.

The board selected nine out of a list of 20 items for deaccession, Executive Director Cheryl Pierce said. Those items were the easiest to determine, as they did not have any information on who donated them or instructions on what to do with them if they were unneeded; many were in poor condition as well.

Deaccessioning museum artifacts can be a lengthy process, first requiring research on where the item came from and if the persons who donated it wanted it returned to them if unneeded. The conditions of the items and their ties to the county also had to be taken into account. The board has to vote on each and specify what is to be done with them if they are unnecessary.

There are a total of four pages of artifacts on a museum storage list that will be much harder to determine what to do with.

Museum trustees have put a stop on accepting new artifacts because the facility has no space in which to store them. Museum officials are keeping some of the largest artifacts in a rental storage unit after they were ordered removed from the Dillon Post Office last year. Trustees have been trying to build two new storage units for the physical artifacts and paper records, but they have not raised enough money to build those structures.

The few items to be deaccessioned will not remove the need to rent the storage unit, Pierce said.

The board has not decided how it will staff the museum later this year; Pierce’s last day is Aug. 14.

Pierce had previously resigned from the full-time role to address chronic budgetary shortfalls, and was hired back on a contract basis. The change contributed to a $33,000 surplus this year, Commissioner Mike McGinley told the board at its meeting.

That surplus could go toward a number of improvements, but the board did not make decisions on how to spend some of that money at the meeting.

The museum’s last open day this season is scheduled for Sept. 27, and previous decisions ensured there will be front desk and archival staff on hand to keep the museum open at that point.

The museum board accepted a re-roofing bid from RTS of Rigby, Idaho, for the museum buildings and the Depot Theater. The work will be paid for out of the insurance payout for hail damage from last August’s storm. The Depot’s roof must conform to historic standards, as the theater is on the historic register. The sod roof on one of the buildings was replaced for $3,000. Pierce said the sod roof has been on the museum’s agenda for replacement for decades.

Other items fixed this summer include a rotting log on the Tory lodge and tree trimming around the museum campus, Pierce said.