Learning about Barcoding Collections

Melanie Deer at NMAIThis blog is written by Melanie Deer, Arizona State Museum Curatorial Specialist for Archaeological Collections about her experience as a Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professional.Opens in a new window This program is open for staff of museums who are Smithsonian Affiliates. Smithsonian AffiliationsOpens in a new window is a national outreach program that develops long-term, collaborative partnerships with museums, educational, and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. There are more than 180 Smithsonian Affiliates in more than 40 states, Puerto Rico and Panama. ASM has been a member since 2000.

I recently had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the National Museum of the American IndianOpens in a new window (NMAI) in order to study their barcoding system used to assist in managing collections. ASM has been considering using barcoding and I felt this was a great opportunity to determine if it is something that would benefit us or not before putting the time and effort into actually starting a barcoding system.

Melanie Deer with SI-NMAI

It was a great experience that I would definitely do again if given the opportunity. Michael Skadowski, Museum Assets and Operations/Applications Specialist at NMAI, was my supervisor in DC. He taught me more about barcodes than I ever realized existed! My timing was optimal for being there as NMAI staff was in the process of switching systems, so I benefitted from their experience in both failures and successes. I got to try the old system as well as the new one and consider on how each of them might be applicable to ASM.

Melanie Deer looking at shelf-NMAII also had the chance to play around with developing barcodes in various forms of documents (ex. Word, Excel, Access). This experience helped me to analyze potential problems ASM might encounter when implementing a barcoding system and come up with possible solutions that can at least get the conversation started.

I am super excited to share what I have learned with the museum. I hope my Smithsonian experience will help us figure out any issues that we might encounter and result in a relatively painless implementation here at ASM. Since we are preparing for a possible large-scale move (over 30,000 cubic feet of boxes) this would be a perfect time to implement a new tracking system.

Photographs by Elizabeth Bugbee, External Affairs Coordinator, Smithsonian Affiliations.