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‘Yard sale’ at the museum

by Margaret Davis and Terri Hill
| July 13, 2023 12:00 AM

We know what some might think: The museum is selling its stuff?

Let us explain. Over the years since it opened its doors 25 years ago in the former Central School, the Northwest Montana History Museum has become the premier repository for thousands of regional artifacts. Before the museum adopted the defined process it has now — nothing enters the collection without a signed deed of gift from the donor — items sometimes came into the collection informally or were found on the doorstep (please don’t do that).

With formal processes for cataloging and storage now in place, museum staff and volunteers have discovered duplicates among the holdings (such as 14 typewriters) as well as items with no connection to Northwest Montana. Where possible, we have tracked the items to their original donors and offered them back. If the original donors cannot be found, we offer items to other, similar institutions. For example, we sent some duplicated items to museums in Deer Lodge and Livingston.

As the museum grows in its collection and membership, it does not have enough space to accommodate the number of items in storage and continue the mission. We mount frequent exhibits, such as the popular “Tales of 10 Objects” displays, as a way to show artifacts not on permanent exhibit.

Months ago we began a review of our stored collection, identifying duplicates and items outside the scope of the museum’s collection scope. Much as we love the items that have come our way, we are running out of storage and must make room to continue accepting items that help us present and preserve Northwest Montana history.

As part of the upcoming Locals Day organized with the Conrad Mansion and Hockaday Museum of Art, the Northwest Montana History Museum will hold a “yard sale” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. We follow the International Council of Museums’ protocol for deaccessioning. If items cannot be returned to their original donors or directed to more relevant, similar institutions, the next best option is for them to stay in the community from where they came.

That’s where you come in. Please spread the word that we hold this yard sale as a way to fine-tune our collection and increase our capacity for collecting items that reflect this unique place we call home. We appreciate our donors’ reverence for history and supporting us through donations to the collection as well as our members and visitors, who help us achieve our mission.

Also according to International Council of Museums’ protocol, all proceeds from the yard sale will benefit the collection.

Thank you for your understanding and support of this rare event.

Feel free to call with any questions, and see you Sept. 23! Please, buy a typewriter.

Margaret Davis is executive director, and Terri Hill is yard sale organizer at Northwest Montana History Museum is Kalispell.