The Aurora collection

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The Aurora Collection includes approximately 16,000 artifacts, some stored in climate controlled rooms for this purpose, others are heaped in the basement of the Church Street School so that it can be used as a “Cultural” Centre.

On Wednesday September 26th I attended a public consultation/brainstorming session put on by the Town and the Aurora Historical society with regards to the pending transfer of the Aurora collection to the town.

The ownership of the collection was a matter I comented on previously here:

The event was covered on page 12 of Tuesday October 2nd edition of the Auroran, which you can read here:

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At 6PM there was a full tour of the Church Street School to the multiple locations where the collection is stored providing a rare opportunity to discover what exactly the collection is comprised of, and how it has been managed since the museum was closed.

It was quite clear from the brief tour that Heritage Standards including conservation, preservation and administration of the Aurora Collection have not been maintained.

The AHS staff member who gave the tour pointed out several of these violations.

The photo included at the beginning of this post is an example of how volumes of old books are being currently stored on the floor in an open non-acid free box.  A great deal of the collection is stored in non-acid free boxes, as seen here:

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Other practices of note were collections of newspapers on file cabinet shelves store in plastic bags that are disintegrating:

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Stuff piled in the basement looked like a scene out of television’s Hoarders:

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Other items stood upwards leaning on walls that could easily be knocked over.  These included things like framed pictures and art that everyone on the tour had to be extremely careful of not brushing up against due to the cramped spacing.  

Another accident waiting to happen were two fragile limestone tombstones in the basement that were also stored upright:  

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The fact that tombstones are considered “artifacts” in a collection at all undermines the appearance of ethical and best business practices, but to leave them exposed to such risk is downright irresponsible..

The sloppy and amateurish handling of Aurora’s artifacts are evidence of how the Aurora Historical Society has voided a section of The Memorandum of Understanding between the Town and the AHS (PR12-010) that reads:

THAT the Aurora Historical Society has ensured that Museum and Heritage Standards including conservation, preservation and administration of the Aurora  Collection have been maintained.

I understand the last, and possibly only inventory of the collection was done prior to the museum being boxed up (2003-2005?) but I have been informed that access to that inventory by the public is denied due to security concerns.  

A new inventory is currently being done by a 3rd party asset management group, and should look to highlight exactly what the town would be in receipt of.

In the Aurora Historical Society’s 2011 proposal to the town titled “Access to Heritage”  it outlines the responsibilities of Collections Management on page 24.

I commented on this presentation in a post previously here:

On page 12  it specifically outlines that this is what a component of the $50,000 grant the society receives from the town is for.

It appears more than evident to me that the “strategic priorities” of the Aurora Historical Society outlined in this presentation have not been met.  

Preoccupation with Hillary House, and budgets, both forecast and realized, of running in the red have prevented the Aurora Historical Society from proper maintenance of the “Aurora” collection.

What I witnessed on the tour only serves to reinforce this.

As an Auroran I am ashamed at what I saw, and it certainly railroads any attempt the Aurora Historical Society is trying to make regarding being a “heritage leader” in our town.

The sooner the town can acquire the collection, the sooner Aurorans can breathe a sigh of relief that our artifacts will be stored, managed and curated in a professional manner.
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