Alaska State Museums Bulletin 57

Printable Version


Lights, Camera, Museums!
 Ask ASM
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
 Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Intern Report
Professional Time Wasting on the Web

Lights, Camera, Museums!

The topic of filming in a museum setting is particularly relevant to Alaskan museums.  Alaska is always an alluring scenic backdrop and on occasion, filmmakers do actually bother to film Alaskan-themed films in Alaska.  Add to that the half dozen or so “reality” shows that are currently filming in the state and there is always the potential for being asked to provide your museum or museum artifacts for the next Hollywood production.  That is exactly what happened to the Aviation Heritage Museum when they were filming “Big Miracle” on location in Alaska.  You remember the story of the whales trapped in the ice up in Barrow?  Well Hollywood dropped in to the Aviation Heritage Museum in Anchorage in order to use an actual museum object and one of their hangars for the purpose of gaining just the right shot.  The object happened to be a 45-ton Boeing 737.  The following is the Post-Movie Shoot Report sent to Norm Lagasse who was then the Executive Director of the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.  He could not be at the museum during the shoot because of previous engagements to speak at the Museums Alaska conference in Fairbanks.  Here is the report that was filed by the museum consultant who was hired to stand in for Norm during the shoot:

RE: Post-Movie Shoot Report

September 20, 2010

Norm Lagasse, Executive Director
Alaska Aviation Museum
4721 Aircraft Drive
Anchorage, AK 99502


The movie shoot went better than we expected. While there were some initial concerns that the film crew might not fully appreciate and care about our artifacts, their behavior came around and they deferred to our perspective once it was more fully explained to them. In addition, the special effects lead was ex-Air Force mechanic who already understood the challenges of caring for aircraft.

When I arrived on Thursday, we moved the F-15, DC-6, and Widgeon to the paved area south of the Museum. Nelson, the advance man who would give us the specific placement for the 737, showed up late morning and we later repositioned the aircraft, and placed the masking to cover the 75th anniversary graphic aft of the passenger door. Interestingly, Nelson mentioned he had local friends who had talked with him about the tragedy of Terry Smith and his son-in-law, and that he understood why we did not want to cover up Terry’s name and agreed with those sentiments. Also, on Thursday the electrical crew (called gaffers) had laid out their power distribution runs and some set decoration items were dropped off. Work finished for the day at about 6:30pm.

The location of the masked graphic, covering a deep blue rectangle and making it disappear. – Museum Consulting that Enhances Performance –

Work resumed 6:00 am on Friday. Set decorators started dressing the Restoration Hangar, gaffers hooked up the wiring they had laid out, extras arrived, make-up was handled in the Pioneers Gallery, and the camera truck pulled in mid-morning and started their set-up. The special effects crew laid down “snow” blankets (white spun polyester, like what is used in quilting) under the 737. The edge of the blankets facing the cameras then received an amazing amount of chopped ice to complete the simulated snow around the aircraft. The placement of the chopped ice was handled very well, avoiding any impact to the aircraft.

Placing the “snow”

We trained the actors how to deploy bottom step on the air stairs and how to operate the door latch and hinge lock safely. They shot two groups of people disembarking from the plane, from a few different angles, and with and without a large fan to simulate wind. They finished this part of the shoot around 2:00 pm and broke for lunch, which was set-up in the soft-sided hangar.

Laying snow blanket under the 737.

After lunch they moved their equipment into the Restoration Hangar, which was to be the interior of a manufacturer’s shop in Minnesota, but the needed crew and cast were asked to leave the set for the remainder of the day. Before leaving, I did confer with their lighting man on what lighting instruments were being used for the interior and he confirmed they were all fluorescents, which reduces the risk of fire greatly. They stopped shooting about 5:30 or 6:00. The cameras and related equipment were loaded back into the trucks. We left the site about 6:40 pm with their security guard posted in our lot near the 737.

Saturday we returned at 6:00 am for final teardown. All electrical cables and set decorations were collected. The rental forklift and scissors lift were placed for pickup towards the street side of the yard. They did run into one snag: the box of our fluorescent bulbs they had removed to install theirs in the Restoration Hangar had been inadvertently been put on a truck the previous night. Instead of restoring our bulbs on Saturday, they arranged with us to return on Thursday at 900 am to do the switch. They also said that if our old bulbs didn’t show up they would buy the same type from Grainger and install those. They finished up shortly before I had to leave at 8:15 am.

Early Friday, the camera crew at work

I would like to note that staff members Steve Pearson and Dick Benner did an excellent job of interacting with the film crew – firm and polite when needed, and helpful whenever it supported their crew’s efforts – very professional. Also, your volunteer Dave was right in their working with us all three days and was very helpful.

Norm, I have done a few of these shoots and this was probably the best film company I have seen yet. They politely accepted our needs when it was counter to their initial preferences and moved on to what was next without complaint. The early conversations and demonstrating our willingness to help their project succeed was reciprocated by their thoughtful conduct – not always the outcome in these activities.

Best Regards,

 Richard Beckerman
Museum/Nonprofit Consultant

Half a semi-trailer with ice blocks, which are chopped into “snow” by the diesel-powered black machine in the foreground.

Camera truck (white box van) placed Friday mid-morning.

The report brings up some very good points about how to deal with a film crew who is occupying your space.  It sounds like this was a well behaved crew with a good sensitivity to the needs of the museum. But this is not always the case.  When this topic came up on the Museum-L listserv, a national listserv for museum professionals, there were many horror stories of film crews doing destructive things on museum property.  I asked Dave Harvey, an objects conservator, to speak his mind with regard to this subject as he was one of the responders to the original query on Museum-L.  Here are his thoughts on the subject.

Filming in Museums and Historic Sites

by David Harvey

Trucks and vans pull up and a film or TV crew arrives at your museum or historic site. This can be one of the most exciting days for your institution or it can turn into a mess. What matters most is having policies in place, preparation, and in having clear and consistent communication with the producers from their first contact to the last.

Photography and film policies are in place in many museums and historic sites as part of their collections management policy. Foremost is to protect and manage the collections from damage from the lights used by photography and filming; then there are issues that involve the use of images from the collection for commercial purposes. But these policies should also cover onsite filming with specific guidelines so that the rules are clear to your staff and the production company or independent photographer / film / TV person. Such guidelines should encompass what you normally require for rentals – things such as restricting where food and drink can be served, liability insurance, use of your museum services (electricity, bathrooms, security, etc.), and most importantly, staff monitoring and the power of staff to halt activity that may damage the collections or the building. Much of this can be anticipated in advance – such as not allowing the use of fog machines that put out a fine aerosol of dispersed oil that gets on everything, or the use of duct tape on sensitive historic or important surfaces where it may pull paint off, or covering floors with protection if they are using heavy equipment (tracks and dollies) that may mar the floors or carpets. You also should build in guidelines for using hot lights (lights that generate a lot of heat) on sensitive objects in the collections, and it is paramount to have a DONT TOUCH policy in regards to all collections unless specific things are negotiated in advance. You may want to restrict filming to certain parts of the building or collections – and you certainly want to restrict access of the film crew to areas where they are allowed to store equipment and where they need to film – no wandering should be allowed.

You also want to be helpful – so having an informational package that you can email a producer and also send to your state film office that provides information to production companies. Photos of the buildings / grounds / rooms / collections are important for the location scouts and producers, as well as a floor plan with locations of power outlets. Having a designated area for storage of equipment, rooms that can be used for make-up and dressing, bathrooms, and parking for vans and trucks is also desired. You want to facilitate all the onsite logistics for the producers so having this in advance can make the difference between your institution being chosen or losing the opportunity to another one.

Depending on the needs of the production you also need to understand how the filming will impact your museum or historic site and whether you can stay open at the same time or if you have to close your doors to visitors while it is going on. This may affect your rental rates (called location fees in the film and TV industry). And some productions may want to use your staff for expertise (in the case of many TV productions) or as actors (both film and TV). So you should have a package of staff head shots (photographs) and short bios to send to a producer if they express an interest in having the staff involved – if there are good videos of your staff giving talks all the better.

A good friend of mine who is a major Hollywood Film and TV Art Director once told me, “Film crews are pigs!” You always have to keep in mind that the people who work for production companies are intensely focused on getting the shots they need for their project. They usually do not have a museum or preservation outlook whether they are in a museum or even shooting in a private home or business. They are tasked with working very fast, efficiently, and for often many hours. The producers know that they have insurance so if some damage occurs during filming they just assume the insurance covers it. You have to be aware of this and take responsibility to have a protection plan and also have staff empowered by contract to protect the building and collections. If these things are worked out far in advance then often creative solutions can be found to keep the producers happy and your institution as well.

 David Harvey
Senior Conservator and Museum Consultant
Los Angeles, CA 

 And if you really want to know what goes on when Hollywood shows up at your museum, you can check out the Smithsonian’s page  all about  “Night at the Museum:  Battle of the Smithsonian”

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Question:  I was wondering what your thoughts are on placing a lightweight easel with rubber on the base on a desk (in this case, an artifact in the permanent collection) to display a lightweight piece of foam board with a diagram on it. Is it acceptable to place such an easel (without sharp edges on its base) on an artifact? If it is absolutely necessary for it the poster to be displayed (it has important information on our new museum plans) and it is requested that it be displayed on the artifact, do you think a compromise such as placing a cotton muslin cloth below the easel where the base pieces touch the artifact is a reasonable solution? While it would be more desirable to display the easels elsewhere (for aesthetic and professional) reasons, space is limited and some may really desire this location.

ASM:  My opinion is that putting a barrier between the easel and the desk would make it OK to display a piece of foam core.  I think the main issue would be with the feet of the easel somehow affecting the finish on the desk.  Rubber has sulfur in it and can be reactive.  Without the rubber there is a danger in scratching it.  So I would say, rubber with the muslin cloth down first.  If you don’t like the way the muslin looks you could always just put Mylar disks beneath the rubber feet.

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Shaking the Money Tree

Conservation Assessment Program

Applications for the 2013 Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) are now available.

The postmark deadline for applications is Monday, December 3, 2012. To be added to the CAP application mailing list or for more information, email the CAP staff or call 202-233-0800. Learn more about CAP here:

Museum Assessment Program

The Museum Assessment Program (MAP) helps small and mid-sized museums strengthen operations, plan for the future and meet national standards through self-study and a site visit from a peer reviewer. IMLS-funded MAP grants are non-competitive and provide $4,000 of consultative resources and services to participating museums.

MAP provides guidance and growth in the following areas:

  • prioritization of goals
  • focus on mission and planning
  • communications between staff, board and other constituents
  • credibility with potential funders and donors

The program offers four assessments:

  • Organizational
  • Collections Stewardship
  • Community Engagement
  • Leadership (full cost only)

Each assessment can be completed in less than a year. Costs to participate range from free to $750. Applications are accepted twice per year with deadlines of July 1 or December 1.


Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections
Division of Preservation and Access
Deadline December 4, 2012 for Projects Beginning October 2013

Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections (SCHC) helps cultural institutions meet the complex challenge of preserving large and diverse holdings of humanities materials for future generations by supporting preventive conservation measures that mitigate deterioration and prolong the useful life of collections.

Apply for planning grants of up to $40,000 (with an option of up to $50,000) to bring together interdisciplinary teams that might reevaluate environmental parameters for collections and examine passive (non-mechanical) and low-energy alternatives to conventional energy sources and energy-intensive mechanized systems for managing collection environments.  Testing, modeling, or project-specific research may help applicants better understand collection environments and formulate sustainable preservation strategies; therefore, with planning grants you might measure energy consumption; use blower door tests to identify air leaks in buildings; create mock-ups of lighting options; test natural ventilation methods; conduct thermal imaging of buildings; test the effect of buffered storage enclosures on moderating fluctuating environmental conditions; re-commission small-scale climate control systems; or adjust the operating protocols for climate control systems.

Apply for implementation grants of up to $350,000 to manage interior relative humidity and temperature by passive methods; install heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems; install storage systems and rehouse collections; improve security and the protection of collections from fire, flood, and other disasters; and upgrade lighting systems and controls to achieve levels suitable for collections that are energy efficient. Projects that seek to implement preventive conservation measures in sustainable ways are especially encouraged.



For more information:


Museums for America
Deadline:  January 15
Grant Amount:  $5000-$150,000
Grant Period: Up to three years
Matching Requirement:  1:1

The web conference schedule for the FY2013 Museums for America grant program is as follows:

Thursday, October 25, 2012, at 2 – 3 pm Eastern Time
Thursday, November 8, 2012, at 2 – 3 pm Eastern Time
Tuesday, November 20, 2012, at 2 – 3 pm Eastern Time
Wednesday, December 5, 2012, at 2 – 3 pm Eastern Time
Wednesday, December 19, 2012, at 2 – 3 pm Eastern Time

To participate in a web conference, a few minutes before it is scheduled to begin, log into:ωpage=guest&conid=MFA_and_NLG_Webinar_for_Potential_Applicants

Or here:

Then, using any touchtone phone, call 1-866-299-7945. When prompted to enter a passcode, enter 9910420#.

For more information:

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Spotlight on Grant in Aid

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum’s Oversized Collection Storage Expansion and Environmental Monitoring Project improved the museum’s ability to serve the community by providing safer, cleaner and more secure storage for the museum’s growing collection of accessioned objects. Project funds were used in two phases; first, to purchase and erect a new storage rack in the collection storage room, purchase archival materials to equip the storage rack, purchase a new flat file, and replace an aging data logger system.

The second phase entailed the purchase and fielding of new Image Permanence Institute PEM2 dataloggers to monitor the environment within the facility.The project began in early 2012 in the collections storage room of the City Museum.  Project Director Addison Field, Intern Victoria Brown, and grant-funded contractor Joe Sears moved all accessioned objects that were in storage in the existing space, to temporary storage locations in other areas of the facility.  Old storage pallets and racks were removed.  An existing flat file was moved out of the area.  A dust and fume barrier was built around the storage area, then the area was cleaned and painted.

During this process, loose and deteriorating floor tiles and cove molding were discovered.  When feasible, this material was removed.  It was evident that the spaces behind and beneath these deteriorating products were providing a damp place where pests were living.  Refreshing the walls and floors had an added benefit later in the spring when a water leak was spotted when it pooled on the floor beneath a broken window tile in the ceiling above.  In the past it is likely that such a leak may have gone unnoticed. After the storage area was cleaned and painted, the intern and contractor erected new industrial shelving that was purchased from McMaster-Carr.  The shelving was put into place, lined with formaldehyde free MDO and double-walled, archival corrugated board.  One existing flat file was put back into its location, and a new flat file purchased from Archival Supply was populated. Following these changes to the physical storage configuration, the intern, contractor and project director began the process of moving objects back into storage.  The opportunity to inventory and update object locations, clean objects, make new storage mounts, update catalog records and take additional object photographs was fully utilized.

After the objects were put in place, a contractor made a dust cover to encapsulate the new storage shelves – a different contractor from the one from which had provided the estimate at the beginning of the project.  This contractor was less expensive and as a result, a second dust cover for a separate object storage rack in a different part of the facility was made.  The dust covers were fabricated with tyvek and designed to custom fit each of the racks.  The intent is to provide a dust and light barrier that will provide added safety for the objects.After objects were repositioned on new racks there was additional space for object storage.  This will allow the JDCM to better serve the community by providing additional space in which to store new donations.  Importantly, the new shelving provides safer storage for collections through a solid barrier between collections objects and an air handling unit installed directly above the storage rack. This unit is serviced by maintenance personnel regularly.

Phase two of the project was the fielding of a new Image Permanence Institute PEM2 environmental monitoring system.  The system was brought on-line in the spring of 2012 and though they are still gathering data, it has been a clear success.  Within a month after fielding the new system and setting up the data management package there was data to make some basic and relatively straightforward object preservation decisions.  For example, after several months it became clear that the environmental conditions inside the compactor storage vault were better suited for storage of furniture with laminated surfaces rather than the large over-size object storage racks in the basement.  The slow and incremental process of relocating some of the sensitive objects from the basement shelves to the compactor storage unit has begun.The JDCM learned this summer that they received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to install an integrated HVAC system in the facility.  The IPI environmental monitoring system will be invaluable as the organization moves forward, allowing the Museum to move away from the old “set point” paradigm of environmental management used in the past, to a new, zone management system that the City Museum and the new HVAC system will transition into.

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Professional Development/Training Opportunities

Racist Stereotypes & Cultural Appropriation in American Sports
National Museum of the American Indian

Thursday, November 1, 2012
6 AM to 1:45 PM AKST

Join commentators, scholars, authors, and representatives from sports organizations for a series of panel discussions on racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation in American sports. Explore the mythology and psychology of sports stereotypes and mascots, examine the retirement of “Native American” sports references and collegiate efforts to revive them despite the NCAA’s policy against “hostile and abusive” nicknames and symbols, and engage in a lively “community conversation” about the name and logo of the Washington, D.C., professional football organization.
Live webcast at:

Upcoming C2C Online Community Webinars

In November, there will be two more opportunities to catch a webinar and live chat event on the Connecting to Collections Online Community. On November 7 at 10:00 pm (AKST), the Community will host speaker Connie Bodner, senior program officer for IMLS. Bodner will review and answer questions regarding the IMLS grant program Museums for America.

Then, just in time for the holidays, on November 28 at 10:00 pm (AKST), the Community will host a discussion on policies aimed at protecting collections during special events—from galas to rentals.

Registration Open for AASLH’s Basics of Archives

Proceed at your own pace through this online course covering the basics of archival management and practices.

The course is made up of five lessons:

  • Archives and Archivists
  • Acquiring Your Collections
  • Processing Collections
  • Housing Your Collections
  • Access and Outreach

The course is web-based and takes 15-20 hours to complete. There are no required times to be online. You may finish the course anytime during the four-week course period.

  • Register now and take the course anytime between
    October 29-November 30, 2012
  • $85  members / $160 nonmembers

To learn more, visit the Basics of Archives webpage.

Enrolled in StEPs?
This workshop may help institutions achieve the standards in the Audience and Stewardship of Collections sections of AASLH’s StEPs Program.

Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums

Call for Session Proposals for the 2013 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums (November 1, 2012 Deadline)

 The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums invites you to propose a workshop, session, keynote, or poster for the 2013 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums to be held June 10-13  at the Santa Ana Pueblo-owned Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area.  The four-day conference brings together cultures from across the nation and around the world to exchange best practices for indigenous archives, libraries, and museums.  The conference features a minimum of six pre-conference workshops, two pre-conference tours, 50 concurrent sessions, two general sessions, three keynote luncheons, and a post-conference Town Hall-style meeting.  Conference tracks focus on library, archive, and museum collections, programs, and services, as well as specialized topics such as cultural tourism, advocacy, oral history projects, language programs, digitization, preservation, and fundraising.  The conference is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

To view past conference programs and/or submit a proposal before the November 1 deadline, visit  Please direct questions to

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Intern Report

The Wandering Intern: A Tale of Travel, Rust, and Bald Eagles

by Emma Dailey, Collections Intern – The Valdez Museum & Historical Archive, Summer 2012

Intern and Bush Pilot Extraordinaire

What makes a Museum Studies graduate student pack up her bags, leave the city she knows and loves, and travel to Valdez, Alaska for a summer internship? I must say, I have been asked this question more times than I can recall; first it was my family, then my classmates and professors in Washington, D.C., and then finally the good people of Alaska themselves. The only response I can give is that I love traveling and having new experiences. I am no newbie to the world of internships; I have now done four museum internships. Additionally, they were all in different cities, different states even.

First there was a local history museum in Buffalo, New York. This was followed by a corporate history museum at the Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco, California. Then, it was national women’s history at the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum in D.C. And now, I find myself in the last week of my internship here, at the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive. So, how do they stack up against one another?

The Valdez Museum is *shock* not the smallest museum I have been at! That prize goes to Buffalo. However, not surprisingly, Valdez is by far the smallest community I have found myself in. This has its advantages and disadvantages. For the first time I was able to walk the whole commute to work. Score one for exercise! However, it seems to rain a lot there and I lacked the proper footwear for wet weather. Minus one for that, I’m afraid.

What about navigation? You would think that’d be a piece of cake compared to D.C. or San Fran. Well, yes and no. If a visitor is willing to put in the time and leg muscles needed to walk the entire town, making a mental map is doable. However, trying to find something via local directions (“take a left at the dock, but if you pass the seafood place, you’ve gone too far”) or my iPhone’s map (“No, sir, I’m not in Anchorage”) is more challenging than anticipated. “But surely Emma,” you ask out loud, “Surely D.C. or San Francisco or even Buffalo must be harder to navigate?” First, I can’t hear you, so stop talking to yourself. Second, not necessarily. Buffalo is a really confusing city in which to drive and the public transportation is wanting. However, I grew up there so I’ve learned to cope. The other two cities though? Piece of cake. And I’m not just saying that to sound like a stuck-up city slicker. Great public transportation and detailed maps (and a phone that doesn’t get confused about where you are) all make it smooth sailing.

How does Valdez compare in the beauty department? Well, Buffalo is a pretty ugly city so that’s out of the running. San Francisco is more neat and trendy than beautiful for the most part.

San Fran: Traveling in Style since 1890

D.C. is gorgeous, plain and simple, but mostly architecturally.


Valdez has not been a disappointment though. What the town lacks in austere neoclassical and colonial buildings, the landscape makes up for with its breathtaking natural beauty.


And the weather of each location, Emma? Well, Valdez summer is exactly like San Francisco winter. Buffalo winter is brutal. D.C. summer is sunny but outrageously hot and humid. Huh. I guess I haven’t had much luck there. C’est la vie. Let’s just move on to wildlife. Alaska wins, no competition. Buffalo has…um… squirrels? San Francisco does have the sea lions on Pier 33, but they also have hipsters so I think they cancel each other out.

West Coast Hipsters

And D.C. has pigeons and politicians. Since I’ve been in Valdez, however, I’ve seen sea lions, seals, sea otters, dolphins, a moose, and bald eagles. Lots of bald eagles. They seem to be akin to the pigeons of D.C. Oh, and I also saw rabbits, and learned that there are some, err, disagreements regarding their presence in town.

Public Enemy No. 1

“That’s all fine and dandy, Emma, but what about your actual work?” you ask. Buffalo had me cataloguing everything from WWII helmets to 1870s vegetable peelers. I also worked with the educator. Wells Fargo had me combing through archives and doing research. At the Sewall-Belmont I catalogued over 2,000 photographs from the 20th century suffrage movement. And Valdez? I had never before seen so many rusty mechanical parts. It was certainly a learning experience! I needed to teach myself about Model-Ts, Ahrens fire engines, and OX-5 airplanes before I could even identify parts to catalogue them. It has to be the most demanding cataloguing I did, but it was great real-world experience! Now if I ever find myself with a box of rusty engine parts in the future, it will be easy-peasy!

okay, I’m not perfect

All-in-all, every single one of my internships has been fantastic. Hands-on work and friendly staff make my experiences worthwhile. And being able to travel and see new sights keeps the homesickness at bay.

Well, except for missing my pets, but who could blame me there?

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Professional Time Wasting on the Web


Preserving photos of the 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition’s tragedies and triumphs

Ever at a loss to describe or critique art?  If so, you’ll appreciate the Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator….

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