USA Diaries – Day 17 – A day dedicated to Collections Management!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day ………..Lets just say very very late updating

I apologize for the gaps that seem to have come up in my Diary.. but there is only so much that a person can do in 24 hours! And that too when you have little or no control on you own time.

So getting back to the account of this day… .. the entire day was dedicated to understanding the various aspects of Collections Management, what they are, how do you work with Collections, what are the best approaches and the Bus Test! The “Bus Test” is a wonderful concept – another typical Carol Butler thing – which basically means that if tomorrow you are hit by a bus how your Institute can carry on without you. This means that you should leave out clear instructions for all the concerned people and make sure that they are getting a very understanding of how you were handling things so that they can carry on!

Again this is one of those approaches that you hardly see in Pakistan. In Pakistan, the general trend is that you should hold on to things so tightly that no one.. and I mean no one can do anything without you. It is one of this sick tactics in which you try to make yourself more relevant when you are extremely insecure about your position… or at least this is how I see it.

Lunch was a simple affair, which revolved around Pizza and Chicken Tenders… we had a lot of these items on this trip!

The afternoon we took a walk.. all the way to the Smithsonian Institute Archives.. this Archives is dedicated to the Smithsonian Collection, which includes their Administrative, Financial, Director and other such things! So the guide for the day in the Archives was Tammy Peters, who was a completely wonderful soul. What caught my attention as soon as I got there was these slides that were stored in this cabinet.. and they were all the pictures of Panda’s…. Panda’s sleeping, eating, playing, looking, rolling, .. Just everything Panda’s.. It was a spectacular collection!

One of the most coolest stop on this tour of the Archives was this wonderful thing that Tammy shopped us… it was the Draft of the will which James Smithson had written in which he made it clear that all his wealth should be donated for making a Museum. It was really cool to see that!

Let me just say this one thing about Tammy Peters… she is a wonderful person. I asked her so many questions about Archiving and everything and she was always ready to help. I asked her about Cataloging, about their policy to destroy certain documents after 10 years or something, about how the original format of the file should be maintained, Accession and Cataloging Number and God knows what else!

The end of the day happened with a continued discussion on Collections Management and how the National Museum of Natural History had to create an understanding regarding the storage Unit they have and the digitization that hey have done. The survey was a self assessment done on a scale of 1 to 5 by each department, and it truly made them get a clear idea of where there is room for improvement.

After that we headed straight home, and I think it was another day of leftovers!


USA Diaries – Day 11 – The Peru Festival is in town!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 12, 28-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating

So I know I skipped yesterday diary, which is not the first time I have broken my promise of writing every day for the duration of this trip. I think it is safe to conclude that thank god there is no police that is coming in, barging in my hotel room to put me on trial.

But in all regards, there was very little to report from yesterday. So let me just walk you through yesterday quickly. The day was dedicated to Exhibit Design and we were given in the care of the lovely and really funny Elizabeth Musteen Allison. She spent 3 hours with us, and in this time, she not only showed us the Mammal’s Hall, but guided us through the entire process that went behind in the design of the Hall. The session was extremely important in my point of view, since it gave me the direction and the answers that I needed which I have been facing at my work. So much thanks goes to Elizabeth Musteen.

Carol Butler introducing Elizabeth Musteen

For lunch, we rushed over to the award winning Mitsitam Native Food Cafe at the National American Indian Museum (NMAI), which opened up in the year 2004. The Museum is a must visit, especially nowadays, with the Peru Festival in a full swing, till Monday and with the highly creative and detailed exhibition, “A Song for the Horse Nation” on display. The exhibition covers the various facet of the important of Horse in the lives of the American Indian. It is truly a wonderfully amazing and well researched exhibition.

From there on we headed to the section that is known as the ImagineNation Section. The area and section is filled with activities for the children to be a part of and how the exhibition can be extended beyond the display boards and into the lives of the children who visit the museum. Truth be told, we were running around the area as if we were 5 again… So therefore I can speak with some credibility when I say that we simply loved that place. The idea was that you get a passport and then you visit the various areas which are a part of the American Indian Culture, and on each of these stops – where you learn something new –  you get your passport stamped.

After looking around at the museum, we went and had a talk with Elizabeth Gordon, who is the Project Manager of the NMAI. She talked about her experience of working here and how it has been received by the indigenous community. Although she makes it known that she can hardly speak on behalf of the entire community, she did mention some of the problems that have been raised and have come to her. She also gave us a big treat by allowing us to go over to the terrace and enjoy the wonderful view of the entire National Mall, we took every advantage of this moment by making sure we got our pictures taken right in front of the Capitol Building – which acted as the most wonderful backdrop.


I have to say again, the museum is pretty spectacular and their theater is a must-have experience. The film – which we were not allowed to take pictures of – s displayed on 3 levels. The first level is that of the stone, the next one is the screen which is made out of knitted material, the third one is the entire dome like ceiling of the room. You just can’t figure out which one to look at and which one to concentrate on, but each one is simple to enhance the sense of the environment which is being depicted on the main screen.

I browsed around some of the other galleries too and had a chance to see some of the most amazing parts of the Culture of the American Indian.


After the browsing I made my way to the Peru Festival that was happening. The treat and the items that the local artisans had on display were truly intriguing. There was a guy there who only made jewelry out of Silver Wire, then there was an artist who was making sculptures out of clay. Then there was another one who had these wonderful doll houses and mirrors with doll borders on display. It was truly intriguing.

Oh did I forget to mention that there was a petting place where there was a kind of Lima…. The sweetheart was so adorably cute, I cant even begin to explain. Oh, and how can I forget the wonderful horse.


On the way back, I decided to take the Metro while the rest of the group decided to walk. It is safe to say that I got lost on the way back, which is one of my favorite things to do. Yes, I love getting lost.. cause I think it is only when you get lost that you can truly enjoy the city. So I got lost, I made stops, saw different places, before finally making my way to the L’Enfant Metro Stop.

A musician playing outside the Metro Station

The rest of the day comprised of a dinner party for some of our group members. The food was good, the company was good. Cooking the food in such small a kitchen was a disaster, but nonetheless, we had a great time.