From museum to archives: managing the Panama Canal Museum Collection

John R. Nemmers, Steve Duckworth, Jessica Belcoure Marcetti, Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2012, the Panama Canal Museum in Florida closed and donated its collection to the University of Florida (UF) after the museum board decided that it could not sustain independent operations. The collection, which documents the American Era of the Panama Canal, was renamed the Panama Canal Museum Collection (PCMC) and is now managed as an archival collection in the UF Libraries. UF received a US federal grant to manage this transition from museum to archives, and to establish a model of convergence. For three years, the PCMC was managed by a project team of museum professionals. In 2015, UF archivists developed a transition plan for PCMC management after the grant, including a processing plan for a sizable unprocessed backlog. This article includes data gathered to assist in estimating artefact processing times, which was a challenge due to untracked artefact processing times in archival institutions. Another challenge was managing relations with a highly engaged community of former Canal Zone residents who were both the primary donors and users. This article presents the challenges and opportunities of this merger, and discusses the difficulty in managing a museum collection as an archival collection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-56
Number of pages15
JournalArchives and Records
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • Museum closure
  • archives
  • community engagement
  • museum artefacts
  • processing
  • transfer of collections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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