Grant fills the Alf Engen Ski Museum with some seasonal cheer
Funds will pay for conservator to assess artifact storage and display practices
An early yuletide present arrived at the Alf Engen Ski Museum this past week.
The museum, which is located at the Utah Olympic Park, was one of 98 organizations that received a $3,800 Collections Assessment for Preservation grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services this past week.
“The funds, which are given out once a year, allow museums to bring in professional conservators to review their practices, storing and displaying their collections,” said Sandra Morrison, Alf Engen Ski Museum curator. “Our assessment will happen over the next year, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services will help us find a conservator who is qualified to help us and work with our collections.”
The Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, helps “advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development,” according to its mission statement.
“The conservator will come to the museum for three days, and do an extensive review of what we’re doing,” Morrison said.
The Alf Engen Ski Museum, by its nature, has an abundance of skis, snowboards and other winter-sports equipment in its inventory, she said.
“Those are interesting items to collect, because it’s a lot of plastic,” Morrison said. “Plastic is a fairly new material when it comes to looking at the different historic artifacts in other museums in the country, and we’re still learning about the best practices of storing plastics long term.”
Other artifacts in the museum’s care include Olympic uniforms and other ski and snowboard clothing, according to Morrison.
“Most of these are made from polypropylene, and those kinds of materials,” she said. “So we’re keen to find someone who can help us with what to do with them.”
The Alf Engen Ski Museum had 5,625 artifacts in its collection, and the collection includes skis that were made as far back as the late 1800s, Morrison said.
“Of course those items, which are 100- and 120-years-old, are made from wood, so we have a good idea of how to preserve those things,” she said.
The conservator will draw up a detailed assessment once the items are examined, Morrison said.
“This extensive report will tell us what we are doing right, what we need to improve on and even touch on issues we haven’t thought about,” she said. “Once we get that report, we can review it and see what we need to work on, and then reach out into the community to raise funds to help us carry out those recommendations.”
The grant came to the Alf Engen Ski Museum at an opportune time, because contractors are busy installing new exhibits, Morrison said.
“Some of our artifacts will go on display for the first time in 20 years, while others will be on display for the first time, ever,” she said.
The museum has been working on the renovation, which is taking up half of the showroom, for the past five years, said Connie Nelson, Alf Engen Ski Museum executive director.
The project started with conceptual plans in 2017, and a digital and dimensional exhibit design company out of Ogden, called Unrivaled, began working on installing the exhibits last month.
“The renovation includes the area from the Alf Engen trophy case to the stairs that go to the 2002 Olympic museum exhibit,” Nelson said. “Our goal is to always move forward and keep up with technology so we can provide an educational and entertaining experience for our visitors. So we’ve designed the exhibits in a way that will allow us to change out the artifacts once every six months or once every year.”
The grant will help Nelson and her staff determine the best way to switch out and showcase the artifacts.
“We’ve never had the opportunity to have someone full time in our archive room making sure everything is 100%, so this will open the way for the museum to fully tell the story of snow sports in the Intermountain Region,” she said.
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