Ask A Curator – Apollo 11 Commemorative Key Ring

(NPS Photo)

(NPS Photo)

The most recent edition of Ask a Curator is a perfect example of how curators can use crowd-sourcing and social media to identify objects and add additional information to the catalog records.

So what is it?

This week’s Ask a Curator object is a commemorative key ring from the 1969 Apollo 11 space launch. This was the launch that landed the first man on the moon. The key ring is made from a copper alloy and shows signs of weathering.

What was it doing at Fort McHenry?

This object is a prime example of visitors adding to the historical fabric of a park. It is likely that this artifact was dropped by a visitor or park staff, representing the next chapter in Fort McHenry’s history.

Using Crowd-sourcing for Cataloging

The catalog record identifies this object as a commemorative medal. When this object was cataloged, in the very early days of easy access to the internet, this was a good, educated guess. With the increasing popularity of the internet and the improved content, not to mention the rise of eBay and the plethora of collectors’ websites, we are able to make better educated guesses and see other examples of the actual object. But curators do not always have the time or resources to devote to re-researching previously catalogued objects.

In using this key ring as an Ask a Curator object, we were hoping to find additional information. And that is exactly what happened. One of our Facebook followers, Jedi Chrome, who is not a museum professional, came across an example of the object – in mint condition. By having access to an example of this key ring that had not been buried in the earth for several decades, we are able to better make out the details and potentially gain greater insight into its cultural significance.

Have you used crowd-sourcing to help identify objects in your collection? What do you think about this as a best practice?


About Megan L.

Megan graduated from Boston University in 2008 with an M.A. in Historical Archaeology. While in graduate school, she wrote her master's thesis on 18th-century glass drinkingware excavated during the Big Dig and interned with NMSC for 2 years. Megan has been a full-time employee since February 2010.
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3 Responses to Ask A Curator – Apollo 11 Commemorative Key Ring

  1. Jedì Chrome says:

    It was a fun little side-project to try and identify the object – I hope there will be more challenges like this in the future! I’m a big supporter of crowd sourcing. I can not directly say where I am employed but I can tell you that the company is very involved in crowd sourcing and we’ve seen first hand just how powerful it can be!

    • Megan L. says:

      Thanks again for your help. We talk about using crowd sourcing all the time but this is one of the first times we’ve put it into practice, and we loved the results. Our next object (look for it tomorrow on Facebook) is a bit more challenging – no one in the lab knows what it is.

  2. Evyn says:

    I have an item identical to this, only it has a picture of the shuttle instead of the astronaut, any ideas?

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