Museum Minute: Collections Can Be Daunting

Oct 2, 2020

McCracken Research Library reading room
Credit McCracken Research Library

The McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West receives many gifts, donations and loans from patrons. The staff has to go through all the collections to catalog them and also find out what’s in them. 

Mary Robinson, the director of the McCracken Research Library, said sometimes the library gets collections that are daunting at first. 

“It was in 50 or 60 boxes. There were 1,000 titles probably,” said Robinson. “It came in a loan initially so we didn't put too much time and effort into processing the material.”

A loan means that the donor has the ability to take back the collection if they wish to. This collection in particular was daunting because it was in rough shape. Robinson said it had gone through an earthquake so it was very disorganized. But when she finally started going through she found treasures. 

“We realized there were real treasures in these collections that are rarities related Western exploration,” said Robinson. “The crossing of planes through Wyoming to California during the gold rush era but also California history books and important things related to Lewis and Clark.”

Robinson said it turns out there were so many things in the collection that were valuable to the library and that this happens often with loans or donations.