Norway Historical Society inventorying artifacts via computer

NORWAY — Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of historical artifacts will inventoried by the Norway Historical Society in the next several years.

Courtesy of the Norway Historical Society

Norway Historical Society President Susan Denison, left, is assisted by volunteers Mimi Bell and Sharon Beal in the painstaking work of implementing the new PastPerfect Museum computer software. The end result will be a computerized catalogue of all the society's collection.

Society President Susan Denison, curator Charles Longley and trustee Ann Siekman are spearheading the project that will use PastPerfect, a database utilized by more than 8,500 museums and other organizations across the country to inventory and manage their collections.

Creating the catalog requires that every item is photographed, comprehensively described and entered into the computer software program, Denison said. Once the project is completed, the information will be available to the public to assist in research and will be searchable in a number of ways, she said.

In Maine, the system is used by historical societies and a large number of prominent museums such as the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore, Victoria Mansion in Portland, the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan and the United Society of Shakers in New Gloucester.

“To be honest, it's very hard to say,” Denison said when asked how long it would take to complete the work. “Once we finish the artifacts this year, we still have to do zillions of photos, then books and then archival material, which is collections of paper related in some way. That could be diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, letters, etc. It will be two or three more years, at least, before it's all done.”

Trustees Ed Staples and Anita Hamilton and volunteers Mimi Bell, Sharon Bean and Julie Hermans are providing help each Thursday at the society headquarters on Main Street to continue the work, Denison said.

The first floor inventory work has been completed on items that include a wig-maker's carding tool for human hair. Work has now started inventorying items in the basement and second floor, Denison said.

“Sometimes we have discovered an object in a dark corner in the basement and fortunately, we didn't have to inventory the cobwebs,” she said.

Occasionally an object is discovered that doesn't seem to have an obvious connection to Norway, such as a box of old poker chips, she said. Once PastPerfect is complete and each artifact is matched to its previous manual record, these questions may be answered, she said.

Volunteers have been essential to the society work, she said.

“I didn't know there were ongoing projects in the society that needed volunteers until I was invited to participate by a board member I knew,” Bean said. “I am a methodical person and I have enjoyed the challenge of the work.”

Bell, on the other hand, had attended programs at the society and signed up to be a volunteer. She has also helped with the gardens in front of the building

Denison said people who want more information on volunteering can send an email to

The museum is open to the public year round on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. during the summer and by appointment. It is at the corner of Main and Whitman Streets in downtown Norway. Admission is free.

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Rick Denison's picture

Photo caption

Sue Denison is on the right.


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