by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles
When making the decision to accept an artifact for donation, several criteria are applied including condition, relevance, and provenance; the history of an object’s ownership. Each object that is accepted into the collection is assigned an accession number that records the object in order of acquisition. As I inventory the textile collection, I am sometimes faced with the need to deaccession, or dispose of, an artifact that is in poor condition or lacks any provenance.
I recently submitted a request to deaccession two pairs of PVC (poly vinyl chloride) galoshes. Galoshes are overshoes worn by both women and men to protect their footwear from rain and snow. Both pairs of these women’s galoshes are suffering degradation of the PVC. The chemical breakdown has caused yellowing as well as surface tackiness that is leaving behind an oily residue. The breakdown is irreversible and the galoshes will continue to deteriorate. In order to prevent any damage to other artifacts, it is necessary to remove them from the collection. The deaccession process begins with the curator who submits a request stating the reasons to get rid of the object. The request is reviewed by the Senior Registrar and the Collections Manager. It is then presented to the Collections committee of the Oklahoma Historical Society board of directors. Upon their review and approval, the item may be disposed.
Every effort is made by the museum staff to preserve the artifacts in our collection including the use of climate control and archival storage methods. Unfortunately, we have to accept that some items simply will not last forever and must be eliminated from our collection.