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It seems like a lot of organizations struggle with accepting athletic trophies into permanent collections. On the one hand, trophies seem to the general public like a very historic item – after all a trophy has a date, and sometimes other information placing the trophy in history. A trophy is a memorial to an accomplishment, and to not keep that might suggest that the accomplishment was transitory or unimportant. On the other hand, space and resources are limited at local historical organizations. Trophies take up both time to catalog and care for and space to store, and yet might be seen to have limited use in telling the story of any given area. From a cost-benefit point of view, perhaps trophies should be taken into collections only with great fore thought. So, two questions:

  • How do you evaluate trophies when considering including them in your permanent collection?
  • What are the stories that trophies help tell?
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2 Responses to Collecting Trophies

  1. Mary Warner says:

    We’d evaluate a trophy in the same way that we evaluate every other item offered for our collections. Is the item related to county history? How many of the same sort of item do we already have? If we have a lot of this particular item, does this one stand out in some way in appearance or story?

    While we have a few trophies in our current collection, no one has offered us a bunch of them at once in the expectation that we’d enshrine their memory in a really big way (i.e. devote an entire display room for one collection, or some such). If this were to happen, we’d treat the situation like we’ve treated similar requests before – by kindly, but firmly, telling the potential donor that our museum is devoted to all of county history and that the family that donated hundreds of items early on in our museum’s history would have had their memory enshrined long ago within our walls, with nary the room for anyone else.


  2. Mike Worcester says:

    So I am sitting in my office one quiet morning a few years back when I get a panicked phone call from the secretary of our local middle school. Mike, she exclaims breathlessly, they are going to throw out trophies. Some of them date back to before consolidation. My response: tell them Ill take them. Deal done. Well, some turned out to be an entire pickup bed load of boxed up trophies. Indeed a number of them dated back to before consolidation in 1972.

    The message to me from the principal and activities director, as related by the somewhat peeved custodian who had delivered the items: We dont want them back. Alright then.

    Some were big, some were small. Some were in great shape, some, well&.

    In the end though, the criteria we used to assess them was simple. Did they have a specific date? Did they have any names on them? Did they include a picture of the team? Were they from an MSHSL state-qualifying tournament event? Were they in displayable condition?

    Fortunately, we have off-site storage so space was not necessarily an issue. From time to time, we put a few on display in a case in our lobby, especially during our summer festival when visitorship from alumni is higher than normal.

    If asked, we will take more. Schools simply do not have the space to handle all the hardware given out to teams these days. As an extra-curricular activities coach in my spare time I see this first-hand. As a collector of local history, we dont want to lose these before we have had a chance to evaluate them and decide what is worth keeping.


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