By Amanda Helfers, Collections & Exhibitions Manager
For the third year in a row, we temporarily closed our doors to the public in order to complete important projects around the Museum. The 2019 shutdown was a year of “smaller” projects. While a general plan and timeline was established, naturally all the smaller projects began to bleed into and over the others.
The first step of Shutdown was to remove our WWI exhibit. Amelia Deering, former intern and curator of the exhibit, came back to help take it down and put the uniforms and artifacts back in their boxes at our off-site storage. We then began cleaning out the office space and moving everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) into the exhibit hall. The City of St. Charles Public Works came during the second week to take out a counter in the office and take away the meeting room table that had been with the museum since 2001. Staff then got busy patching and painting walls throughout the museum including the gift shop and display window walls. Volunteers worked through the three years of donation backlog and completed documentation of almost 75% of the backlog.
Staff was also busy working on curating the new temporary exhibit on the Underground Railroad in St. Charles by completing new research, collaborating with other institutions in the area, and figuring out the layout for the exhibit. On top of all this, we were also reconfiguring office spaces to allow all staff and volunteers to have their own desks and workspaces. The office situation is still a work in progress as we fine tune where things fit best and weed out any unnecessary items, but we are in a better working situation with the new office spaces.
Mother Nature was not our friend. Due to the snow and then extreme cold, we had to cancel five days of volunteer work. Though staff was able to work from home, the onsite projects were then put on hold. We could not have accomplished the amount that we did without our wonderful volunteers who dedicated their time week after week to help us paint and inventory backlog. Over the four weeks, we had nearly 30 helpful volunteers contribute their efforts. While there are still projects to be finished, January 2019 Shutdown was a complete success!