In the past week, the mansion has gotten rid of items from its collection. The items were acquired over a series of years but were not Barker related. Through the process of weeding through the mansion’s non- Barker related collections, we have been able to provide mittens and hats to gentleman from Keys to Hope during the extreme cold spells Michigan City experienced. Plans to donate toys, dolls, and stuffed animals to children’s programs are in the works. At the Thrift Sale at our Vintage V-Day, party items were release from our care to local theater groups needing in-period costumes and attire, as well as to families wanting to reunite with nostalgia. Last Saturday, in particular, members of the community came to us in search of the mannequins for their WWII exhibits. We were fortunate enough to assist with their inquiry. In an attempt to create more space to better house the Barker collection, we have fulfilled a need in the community which seems to be a common theme- What is the need of the community and how do we fulfill it?
Most of the items that have left the mansion in the past month were originally found in the archive and storage rooms that were once servants quarters located in the 1857-part of the house. Through the process of eliminating the modern clothes and toys, mansion employees are faced with a new question for the Barker Mansion archives: How do we preserve a historical collection and maintain it’s integrity while using modern items to prevent damage to artifacts? It would be wonderful to say “everything in the home is 100%”. However, from what I gather, that is simply not possible.
While we have a very high number of authentic pieces, a modern museum needs to have items that are not original for public use. Items in office spaces are not original. Chairs set out for guests to rest upon in the foyer cannot be original. In order for the mansion to have the public within it’s walls, we must have at least a few items that can take daily wear and tear rather than guests sitting in Mr. Barker’s chair at the dining room table for their bridal reception. While the idea can be kind of cool to use the same silver set that the family used, it is not realistically a great solution when you think about preservation. The Barker collection is apart of a legacy. We are able to see 200 years into the past through the preservation of these items and hopefully in another 100 years, people will be able to see the same things that visitors see today. We have just embarked on the journey towards finding better methods.