04 December 2007

How Museums and Libraries Lose Stuff

Have you ever been in a library, archives, historical society or other facility and ordered a book, collection, or microform to view, only to be told it cannot be found? As genealogists we just know the missing item is the one that holds the long-sought clue to a brick wall in our research. The loss of items has generated much press in recent months. A recent article in the George Mason University's History News Network discusses some of the losses and also addresses reasons for it.

One comment made by a reader concerns helpful patrons who reshelve the books they have looked at. The reason for book return shelves and carts is to prevent misshelving and many facilities look at the type of books being used. This aids in future purchases as well as decisions on books to put in storage when shelving capacity is bulging at the seams. I remember searching nearby shelves and behind other books to find a missing item. The same holds true for missing microforms. The article serves as a reminder to follow the reshelving or refiling rules of any place we visit in our family history research.

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