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Virtual Guest Curator

While the Akeley Building and the Community Archives and Research Center are closed for the time being, this doesn’t mean we can or should stop researching and collecting histories from the Tri-Cities. In fact, we are asking you for your help! We would love it if you participated in curating our virtual guest curator case. You may be familiar with our physical guest curator case, located next to the Pioneer Cabin on the first floor of the museum. By taking our case and making it virtual, we can help you share your historical collections and stories with other members of the community. 


So, you’re excited to submit your collection to be a part of the virtual guest curator case! Below are the steps we need in order to get your collection on the web.


  1. Identify a collection and select no more than 10 objects.

  2. Photograph 3D objects.

  3. Use a scanner for any printed photographs.

  4. Write labels for your objects.

  5. Write a collector statement.

  6. Submit your collection to


The text below provides further information on how to gather and submit these materials!


Previous guest curator Vickie Everett next to her case

​1. What is a collection?


What do you think of when you hear the word “collection?” To museums, “collection” means more than just a bunch of stuff! When we talk about collections, we mean a set of objects, photographs, or papers that are all related to each other in some way. For example, our most recent guest curator case features a collection of typewriters, some from the early 1900s and others from only a few decades ago. But a collection doesn’t have to be all one type of object. Recently, we featured a collection of memorabilia related to the Beatles; the collection included dolls, albums, a towel, a board game, socks, and much more. Because all of these different objects were about the Beatles, they worked together as a collection. What are some of the most common collections? Many people collect postage stamps, currency, and natural history specimens like rocks or seashells. Some of these collecting activities even have special names: the collection and study of currency (whether paper, coin, token, or cowrie shell) is called numismatics, and philately refers to the study and collection of postage stamps.


For our virtual guest curator case, we’re looking for collections of all kinds! There is one type of collection in particular that really holds a special place in our hearts, however, and that’s a local history collection. What do we mean by that? We would absolutely love to see photographs and objects that help tell the history of northwest Ottawa County, including Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, Grand Haven, Robinson Township, and Crockery Township. Whether it’s a coffee cup from a local restaurant or a photograph of a local park, we would love to feature collections that connect to local history. If you have any questions about your collection, please contact exhibits curator Kate Crosby at


2. Photographing your home collection

While very few people have professional photography equipment available at their home, many of us have a surprisingly powerful piece of equipment in our hands: a smartphone. We recommend taking photographs of the individual objects in your collection with a plain background. This can be a blank wall, a white bed sheet or pillowcase, or a piece of black paper if the object is white. For specific information about how to take a good photograph with your smartphone, please refer to this post by Assistant Curator Jen Vos. 

3. Scanning photographs


Jen’s advice is great for 3D objects, but what if you have pictures that have already been printed? In the museum, we use flatbed scanners to copy images with a very high resolution so we can see minute details. At home, you have a surprisingly powerful device in the palm of your hand that can work in a pinch: a smartphone. Using an app like TurboScan, Adobe Scan, or Cam Scan, you can make a reasonably high-resolution scan in your own home. This tutorial will walk you through with TurboScan. 


1. Download TurboScan or a similar app with scanning capabilities from either the Apple Store or Google Play. 

2. Open the application. 

3. Place the photograph you want to scan on a background with high contrast (if the photo is mostly light, use a dark  background). Position the photograph to minimize or eliminate glare. 

4. In TurboScan, click the camera icon in the bottom left corner. This opens the camera function in the app. You may notice a dashed line appear around your photograph. TurboScan has an algorithm for automatically finding the edge of a document or photograph. If it has identified the edges correctly, you can press the white button at the bottom to take a picture. If the app has misidentified the edges of the photograph, try changing the background or moving the camera to see if it will be able to find the picture. 

5. Once you have taken a photograph, you will move to the next process, which determines how the image is saved. In TurboScan, images default to black and white scans like you see on a copier. To have the scan register as a picture, tap on the “B/W” letters at the bottom of the screen. It will next show a color scan. Tap “color” to change the picture from a color scan to a photograph. When you’re happy with how the scan looks, tap “next.”

6. TurboScan will then take you to a screen where you have several options for your photograph. You can send it, edit it, discard it, or add a page. If you’re ready to email the image, you can tap the square with an arrow on it and the app will give you a variety of sharing options. In this case, you will want to use the “Email as JPEG” option. If you tap on “Email as JPEG,” a screen will pop up for emailing the photo. If it is your first time using the app, you may have to set up a default email account before you can do this. 

7. If your photograph has something important written on the back of it like a date or names, you can use the “add” feature by tapping on the square with a plus sign in the middle. This will take you through steps 1-6 again. When  you’re done with the images, you can tap “Done” in the upper right corner to return to the main menu.

4. Labels


Labels are very important for exhibits. They tell us what an object is, what it was made of, who made it, how old it is, and why it matters. Every exhibit at the TCHM has labels, and our virtual guest curator case is no exception! We ask you to write labels so we can accurately tell visitors what an object is and why it matters to you. For example, in Rylie Innes’s virtual guest curator case, the labels help us tell the story of why each typewriter is special to her. To make sure we can educate each other about these objects, we want to have as much of the following information as possible: 


  • Name of Object (“Remington Model 12,” “Half Dollar Coin”) or Title of Artwork (Abstraction #3, Untitled)

  • Maker/Artist Name (“Remington Rand Corporation” or “Lewis Cross”)

  • Date Made (For some things you’ll know the exact date (coins have a year printed on their side) but for other things you may not be able to figure out exactly when it was made. If you know it was in the 1950s but aren’t sure of the year, you can say “circa 1950” which lets readers know that you have a pretty good idea of the range of years. If you have absolutely no clue, it’s perfectly okay to say “no date”)

  • Materials (for some objects, such as artwork, this makes sense and can be as simple as “oil on canvas” or “acrylic on paper.” For other objects, knowing the material can help explain the importance (the difference between a silver half dollar and a copper-nickel clad half dollar marks an important point in American currency history). Use your best guess to figure out the materials, and don’t be afraid to ask us for help!)

  • 2-3 sentences about what the object is and why it’s important to you. It’s exciting to learn more about the personal significance of a collection. Part of why people are interested in other people’s collections is because of the story behind it. Learning that Rylie got her first typewriter from her grandparents helps us understand why typewriters became special for her. If you acquired an object while traveling, or from an important person in your life, or even during an important event, that makes the object more meaningful to you. If you can share that story with us, that will help digital visitors understand why these collections are special to you. 


If you give us the text, we can do the rest. We may adjust the formatting (changing a font to make it easier to read, making the font larger) or add some punctuation (commas between materials, for example) but we will otherwise leave the text alone unless you give us permission to tweak it! 


5. Collector Statement


To round out the exhibit, we ask you to write 150-250 words about your collection and why it matters to you. This helps us understand why you chose these objects, what they mean to you, and links the objects and their descriptions together to create a cohesive whole. For a good example, check out Rylie Innes’s virtual guest curator case statement. 


6. Submit your collection

The last step is to gather all of your photos, labels, and your collector statement and to email them to me, Kate Crosby, at When emailing your photographs, it is very helpful if you can rename the photos so that it is the name of the object (“royal hh.jpg” vs. “IMG_5343.jpg”). That way I can make sure I match the photos and labels correctly. Please attach the photos, rather than sending them in the body of the email, and make sure you include the labels and the collector statement. If you have any questions, send me an email and I’ll do my best to answer them. We can’t wait to see the variety of collections in the community!

Below is a collection of different ways to create platforms for photographing your work if you aren't scanning it.

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