Encountering Troubles with PastPerfect

For this week’s blog post I contacted an individual I worked with when I was an intern at The Polish Museum of America, the development coordinator/registrar Kasia Balutowska (she also worked with the archives department). During my time there I assisted in cataloging artifacts into the PastPerfect system as well as in the creation of an exhibit. Both of these tasks showed me the darker side of museum and archival work, specifically the lack of funding and efficient help. The quick conversation I had dealt with the complications I encountered.

My experience with PastPerfect was definitely unpleasant and Kasia was there to experience my troubles with the program, since she was in charge of interns cataloging artifacts. I first asked Kasia if cataloging artifacts is necessarily a part of her job, since her title does not allude to an archive position and because I’ve seen her handle a number of different projects in many departments. I wasn’t surprised to hear that she does help out in any department that needs the help, and even though she doesn’t have an archivist position she works extensively with the Museum’s collections. I asked her about the work that interns and volunteers do and if the information they input is usually accurate and doesn’t need to be altered. The answer was “It varies.” I total understood her remark, because the program (at least when I used it) was not exactly user friendly. For example, if I reread what I wrote and realized I misspelled something I couldn’t just simply fix the one problem, I had to delete the whole section and re do it. This was because whatever I would write it would delete the next character. This problem creates obstacles when dealing with interns and volunteers imputing data into the system. The program is annoying and could be updated or they could purchase a more efficient system. However, there isn’t money for the Museum to add such things. The process of cataloging artifacts is taking a long time and leaving a wealth of great items locked up in storage. This could be incredibly frustrating.

Interning at the Museum left me with a lot to think about when deciding on where to apply for jobs. Most of my family and friends suggest going back to The Polish Museum of America, but I don’t think that is an option. It appears they are fully staffed and I’m not sure if they have the budget to take on another employee. Also I would like to consider an institution that has up to date technology, as well as a larger source of finance. I’m sure every person looking for a job wants and applies for the same thing, so it definitely makes me nervous about entering into the museum field.

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