Twenty seven students and two instructors from Catholic University Library School’s Art and Museum Librarianship Institute were hosted by the Smithsonian's two libraries in Suitland, Md. on May 21st. The purpose of the course is to expose students to the realities of management and administration of libraries/archives that are part of cultural heritage institutions, including an introduction to various information management systems and policies.
In previous years, the tour started at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Resource Center in the morning and then the afternoon at the NMAI Library at the Cultural Resource Center (CRC). This year it was decided the tour could stay in Suitland and start at the nearby Museum Support Center (MSC), including a visit to the newly renovated MSC Library and the library’s largest client, the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI).
The students were enthusiastically engaged during their tour at MSC. Though a number of MCI staffers were attending the American Institute for Conservation conference in Los Angeles, MCI Technical information Specialist Ann N’Gadi was able to skillfully describe the basic work being done in nearly all of the fascinating MCI labs. Smithsonian Archives paper conservator Nora Lockshin took 30 minutes to explain the complexities and history of her latest work at her busy MCI lab. MSC librarian Gil Taylor also gave details on how the Libraries serves the myriad of researchers at the MSC facility.
Following lunch at the NMAI/CRC in the Curatorial Library, the students received a packet of handouts from NMAI Librarian Lynne Altstatt. The handouts included Information about the NMAI Library both in English and Spanish, a Galaxy of Knowledge postcard, various NMAI Library handouts, a copy of the NMAI Library collection development policy, and copies of both the NMAI and Libraries strategic plans.
As Lynne went through the packet with the students, she explained the importance of a collection development policy in a museum environment, and pointed out the differences in the two strategic plans. Lynne also discussed the history of the NMAI and the NMAI Library and the role of the Libraries at the Smithsonian. After this talk, the students were given a tour of the Cultural Resource Center, the NMAI Conservation Lab, and the NMAI Library.
Dr. Mary Edsell Choquette, the instructor for the traveling Institute, says that the Smithsonian Institution Libraries tours are the students’ favorite every year. It is a pleasure to work with students who are so interested and absorbed in the workings of the libraries.—Gil Taylor and Lynne Altstatt