Stories From Banting’s Basement: Week 6

Hello again! This past week, I have again been working hard at cataloguing the Teddy Ryder collection. I finished cataloguing the artefacts and am now working my way through the archival material. This includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, journal articles, diet sheets and plenty more.  

While completing this task an issue came up of how many copies of an item does the museum keep for it’s collection. As the curator says, “An heir and a spare”, meaning two copies in case one gets damaged.

In the Teddy Ryder collection, there are 6 copies of “Teddy Ryder rides again!”, 5 in collection storage and 1 on display in our “I’m a Fat Boy Now” exhibit. As much as we would love to keep each copy of this book, the museum has to consider storage space for future archival materials and artefacts. So, what do we do with the remaining 4 copies?  

Banting House National Historic Site of Canada

In museums, there is a process called deaccessioning. Deaccessioning is the formal process of removing an object from the permanent collection. Each museum should have a section in their collections management policy that provides steps for this procedure. Some topics in the policy would include; criteria, procedures, acceptable methods of disposal, and governing body approval.  

When deciding to deaccession an object, there are 8 things that a museum needs to consider; 

  1. Is the physical condition of the artefact so poor that repair is not reasonable or would compromise its integrity? 
  1. Does the object pose a threat to health and safety?  
  1. Is the museum unable to care for the object ie. space and conservation needs?  
  1. Does the object have aesthetic, historical, and/or scientific value?  
  1. Does the object conflict with ethics or laws? 
  1. Is the object consistent with the museum’s mission and goals?  
  1. Is there an effective use of the object?  
  1. Is it a duplicate with no added value?  

The last point is the one Banting House considered before deciding to remove the remaining four copies of “Teddy Ryder rides again!”. Do any of these copies add value to the collection? To determine this, an examination was completed of each copy to see if there is a loose sheet, or perhaps a signature or note that adds value to the object.  It was decided that the four remaining copies have no added value, and so we started the deaccession process.  

First, Banting House is reaching out to other institutions that may want or need the item in their collection. This includes other museums related to the discovery of insulin or diabetes, a local museum where this story would fit in their mandate, or perhaps a library that wants to add it to their collection. The goal of Banting House is to keep it in the public domain for future research.  

If none of the institutions what the additional copies, then there is the option to sell it, ideally by public auction. Any money made from this sale would go back into collection.  

If this is not possible, the artefact would be disposed of where the museum would document the process.  

Another item with multiple copies is an image of Teddy Ryder before his insulin treatment, taken on July 10, 1922.  

Banting House National Historic Site of Canada

Of this photograph, we have 5 copies. However, with this photograph, there was little hesitation to deaccession it because each copy added value. Below are the backs of two images that have writing. This writing makes each copy unique and therefore, adds value.  

Banting House National Historic Site of Canada
Banting House National Historic Site of Canada

These are two examples how a museum handles multiple copies of an item.  

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about what goes on “behind-the-scenes” at a museum. See you next week! 

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