Worst of all are those projects that someone clearly spent tons of time on which resulted in something completely useless. When one of my coworkers started in the department and asked if the collection had ever been inventoried she was told "yes! lots of times!" and shown a drawer full of lists of artifacts. No location information, no images, no condition details. Just a list of artifacts by type.
Anyway, so while working on our collection of fans, I found a note so astonishingly unhelpful I had to laugh. Apparently, some sort of fan expert had been through the box and wrote a summary of what was found inside. Here it is verbatim, IN IT'S ENTIRETY:
Some inexpensive 20th century fans.
Most fans in this box are last half 19th century.
A few 18th century fans.
Three fantastic (no pun intended) fans I’ve never seen before in 35 years of fan research! No other museum has them, including New York Met., Smithsonian, DeYoung, etc.
There was no included list indicating which fans were which. NONE. Nothing in the box seemed that amazing to me, but I could identify one or two that seemed to be a little different or of somewhat better quality. I spent some time looking at the Met's database and saw a bunch of SPECTACULAR fans which were way more impressive than anything in this box.
Which made me think...who even knows what was in this box when the note was written? Or if the note was even placed with the right box!?! I later came across a few fans that, while not any more exceptional than anything I saw on the Met website, were potentially in the same league. But wait...there's more! A couple boxes later I found ANOTHER note, with the same handwriting, full of more juicy information:
Most of the fans are last quarter 19th century. Some oriental. Some very good fans. A lot of not so good fans. A few should definitely be mended!
Without any hint of the object numbers or even a vague description or list there was nothing I can do with this information other than throw it away.
JK I put both notes up on my bulletin board and am going to laugh at them every day.