By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM – Discussion of funds for a new data entry employee at the Potsdam Public Museum held up the approval of the Town of Potsdam budget for 2018 for a short time at the council’s meeting Wednesday night.
An item for $21,340 to pay part of the salary of a worker to help clear a backlog of inventory accounting at the museum was questioned when the participation of the village in the salary payment was thought to be unsure.
The discussion centered on the question of whether or not the money should be included in the town budget for 2018 when the village’s next budget won’t go into effect until next spring to coincide with the village’s fiscal year.
If changes were made to the tentative town budget Wednesday night a special meeting would have had to be held later, bringing the town up against a deadline for final approval.
Ultimately the funds were left in the budget before the vote to adopt the 2018 spending plan proceeded.
The money is to pay a data entry person “to help put 60-year-old manual records into a database” that would bring the museum’s record keeping up to date, said museum director Mimi VanDeusen.
Right now if she wants to go looking for information on a hat in the museum’s collection, “I can’t just go look under hats” in the card catalog, VanDeusen said, but she would have to flip through hundreds of cards to find what she was looking for. In fact information on where the item is actually stored is on those cards too.
There are about 10,000 items in the electronic database, “but that’s just the tiniest tip of the iceberg,” she said.
There are paintings, books, manuscripts, textiles, musical instruments, dolls and toys that were dutifully cataloged on cards in the past, but the records on those thousands of items – perhaps as many as 500,000 – are cumbersome and not up to current standards.
“Plus there are over 5,000 photographs and data on them that we would like to share online, and a lot of other collections such as books and manuscripts,” she said.
For that data entry employee to be hired, the village would have to commit its share of the funds and officially create the position, which would require a vote of the village Board of Trustees.