Boothbay Railway Village Museum is in planning stages for a new archive building. Director of Curation and Education Whitney Lytle said a site survey will happen this spring for the building which will be located across the street from BRV in the museum’s overflow parking. The building will take away just about 10 parking spaces, she said.
With thousands of artifacts located throughout its sprawling campus, BRV needs a place to keep its most fragile items, most of which have been kept away from display to reduce deterioration, Lytle said. “We want to make sure these items are better preserved. This archive building will help us do that as well as give us space to work with items that are on display, be able to do restoration or repairs, have a better library and just get a lot more organized and be better stewards of what we're housing here … It's a really forward thinking plan we have for the museum and for the community really, trying to make sure we have something impactful to offer.”
One of Lytle's goals is to give some of BRV's most interesting artifacts more visibility. She said once these items have their own place with better environmental control, BRV will also invite professionals to do workshops, give demonstrations and hold other events the public and region’s visitors might have interest in. BRV is also hoping to reserve low-cost rental space in the new building for local historical societies to house some of their most fragile artifacts.
“We also want this to be a resource not just for us. We're hoping to make this a community resource … A lot of what we have here is very sentimental and it's a lot of family collections.”
BRV started planning for an archive building before Lytle came on in October 2020 and she said the staff and board’s interest in growth was one of the things that attracted her to her position. With plans already in the works, Lytle’s knowledge and experience in environmentally controlled storage added depth to the interior design.
Lytle said the main shelving will be on a rail system, ironically, which will be embedded in the concrete slab foundation. Since a majority of items will tolerate the same humidity and temperature ranges, the archive will not need to have isolated chambers or anything similar, but asked if the rails will be the customary narrow gauge that the trains run on, Lytle said there would have to be more conversation with the company that specializes in archive shelving.
For now, Lytle is busy cataloging BRV’s inventory, currently working through nearly 600 pairs of salt and pepper shakers. She is also pondering future space which will accommodate items as small as her current focus and potentially as big as agricultural equipment.
“There are probably thousands of piece that could be stored in there … and there are so many opportunities that will open up once we have that space to bring people in. We hope people will enjoy helping and getting to see behind the scenes.”