Museums usually only have about 1 percent of their collections on exhibit at one time. When we finally get our collections digitized and out to the public, it will be a whole new way for people to interact with these objects online.
It was a 40-foot-long band-saw blade. And it was dirty. And Lauren Jaeger Stark '09 was charged with cleaning it — a seemingly simple task at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum that took hours with a peculiar vacuum.
"It really is an odd way to spend my day," she says with a laugh. "But it's fun because there's so much variety. One day I'm cleaning an object, the next day I'm reading letters from the person who donated it. It's an exciting way to learn about these objects."
In her former job as curator for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Stark documented, cleaned and inventoried some of the state's 4.5 million historic objects, usually stored in state museum back rooms — everything from full-sized vehicles to tiny pins.
Now in a new role as a PHMC registrar, Stark is implementing a database that brings Pennsylvania's hidden gems to the public. It pairs nicely with her goal of getting others excited about their history.
"Museums usually only have about 1 percent of their collections on exhibit at one time," she says. "When we finally get our collections digitized and out to the public, it will be a whole new way for people to interact with these objects online."
An admitted "history nerd," Stark can focus hours on a single object, dusting it with a fine brush or investigating its origin. That research can reveal rich stories of provenance.
A junior-year internship at the National Archives and Records Administration stoked the New Jersey native's interest in museum work. So she forged a career she loves by capping her history and political science degrees with a master's in museum studies from George Washington University.
"I worked at the American History Museum for about four years after grad school," she says. Some pretty good stories come out of museum storage rooms. She says, "I was inventorying objects in the work and industry collections and turned around and was face-to-face with C-3PO."