My first month… continued!

As well as helping out at the Art Gallery, I have also been working on an accessioning project and an inventory project for one of the many boxes kept permanently at the Hat Works museum.

Documenting hatting ephemera

Hat Works inventory
The box I was working on contained a large amount of hatting ephemera, mainly from the company Walker, Ashworth & Linney Ltd., which used to be based in Denton (Manchester).  Many of these items already had STOPM: numbers (the Stockport museum objects code), though some only had an entry number and as such required accessioning into the collection.  This project was great for becoming accustomed to inputting a large volume of object records onto MODES; in some cases there were 80+ identical items, which each needed their own ‘point’ number – ie: 85 Parcel Post labels, numbers STOPM: 1993.1389.1, STOPM: 1993.1389.2, and so on until STOPM: 1993.1389.85.

Measuring a photograph

 I had been photographing the objects which were interesting and would be good for display, which was most of the box!  In the instance where there was more than one of an item, as the Parcel Post labels as above, I took a photograph of the first point numbered object and then used the same image for each identical object thereafter.  Again, this was good practice for inserting new fields such as Note  to the Photography section to state that the image was of a duplicate object and not that of the object being recorded.

I also re-packaged the objects when necessary, using melinex sheets for photographs or certain labels, and wrapping other items in acid-free tissue paper.  When I had finally finished documenting this box, I felt very proud of myself!  I learnt how to create a box list using MODES, which in this instance was nearly 30 pages long!  The best part is sticking a little red sticker on the box to show that it has been documented when back on the shelf.  A nice sense of achievement.

Finished! The tip of the iceberg of the documented and re-packaged hatting ephemera objects from one box…

Accessioning into the collection
Another of my projects is to work through a large number of objects from a donation in 1999.  Each of the objects have been given an entry number, and are packaged in boxes at the moment, but have never been accessioned – ie, they have never been formally accepted into the museum collection.  Sorting through these objects has required a level of reasoning. There is simply not enough space or resources to accession everything from this donation.  Therefore I had to think about various questions.

Do we already have one/some of these in the museum collection? Is it in good condition? Will it enrich the collection? Can it be used in future exhibitions? Is it linked with Stockport or the people of Stockport? If not, could it be useful as a handling object for educational sessions such as schools or other groups? 

Marking a glass object with paraloid (a safe type of varnish) and curatorial grade ink

It is possible to transfer objects if it is sought after by another organisation.  Disposing an object however is the very last resort, reserved for those which are in extremely poor condition, or are infested by bugs beyond conservation techniques.  I hope to learn a lot more about the issues surrounding disposal during my traineeship.

When an object is deemed collection-worthy, it requires assigning a new unique number to the object, creating an object record for the item on MODES with as much information as possible – including details of the donor – and then marking the object discreetly and appropriately with the correct tools.  If the item needs any conservation, such as freezing for a number of months if infested or as a precaution when the object is a textile, this can be done  now.  The item can then be found a new home in the collection, by searching for similar objects or themes on MODES.

 One of my favourite items to accession was an art deco style tunic.  It has been handsewn and decorated with a scarf clip.  This type of costume was lacking in the collection and so deciding to accession it was a no brainer! This tunic is currently in the freezer, and will be for another 2 months as a conservation precaution to kill any potential bugs that like to munch on textiles.  It has a location in the collection, ready for when it can be taken out of the freezer.

Art Deco style handsewn tunic with scarf clip embellishment


My first month

Hello all

The first four weeks of my placement have flown by, and already I have done so many things and learnt a lot.

In my first week, there was a hefty amount of induction training and reading to do: fire safety, manual handling, council policies etc.   All very important issues and information, but those concerning data protection are especially important for collections management as there can be personal information contained in object records on  MODES (or any other form of collections database) detailing the names and addresses of people who have donated objects, and other such sensitive information. 

In the first week I also started one of my ‘retrospective documentation‘ (or ‘RD‘) projects.  Retrospective documentation, as defined by the SPECTRUM standard for Collections Information Management, is

The improvement of the standard of information about objects and collections to meet minimum standards by the documentation of new information for existing objects and collections.

definition from – accessed 9.7.2012 

SPECTRUM is a set of guidelines published by the Collections Trust (formally the Museum Documentation Association) which need to be adhered to in order for a museum to gain museum accreditation.

19th Century Nailsea glass rolling-pin

I am helping to tackle the backlog of ceramics and glasswares which need to be added to MODES retrospectively; and so far I have unwrapped some real gems!  An Imari pattern tea service, stained glass window panes, glass rolling pins (I didn’t know these existed), chocolate cups… I am very excited about what other objects I will come across! 

When documenting these objects, I have needed the following skills: unwrapping, object handling, accuracy, condition checking, photographing, labelling/object marking, and repackaging.  Some of these items were last seen over ten years ago, and so the packing materials needed to be changed to acid-free tissue paper.  Thus I have learnt very quickly how to line the acid-free boxes with the tissue paper and how to wrap up objects of varying size and shape!   Indeed, RD-ing these objects has given me the chance to get to know MODES; how to add a new record, how to use a previous record as a template, inserting various fields such as related record and previous number, using shortcut keys for various actions… there is still a lot to learn about this collections database but I do feel that I am starting to get a handle on it!          

Painting at height!

The second week mainly consisted of helping with an exhibition at the Hat Works Museum.  This included taking objects out of the display cases from the previous temporary exhibition, packing them up to return to the lenders or for going back into the collection, painting the exhibition space, and cleaning the display cases.  The new exhibition, Hot Heads – Inspirational British Millinery is now open, and includes pieces from designers such as Philip Treacy, Karen Henrikson, Zara Gorman, William Chambers, and more.  Photographs of the finished exhibition are coming soon! 

In my third and fourth weeks, I have been busy working on various tasks. 

Art Gallery
At the gallery I was helping to take down the artwork from the Open Contemporary Art exhibition 2012, ready for installation of a new temporary exhibition entitled Street Scene.  Gloves were a must, in handling the various types of work – canvas, sculpture, glazed works… once down, the pieces needed to be sorted into those purchased and those which were being collected by their respective artist.  Those which were purchased were wrapped in acid free paper and bubble wrap; those being collected were sorted into alphabetical to ease the process of locating their work!  The holes from these painting were then filled in and sanded, ready for when the new work was to be put up.

Retrieving artwork from the heritage stores

Wrapping artwork for safe transportation to the Art Gallery

Next, back at the heritage stores, the pieces chosen from the collection to go on display in Street Scene were retrieved from the art stores.  These are found by the object number on MODES, which states the permanent location of the item.  Then it is a case of finding the rack number and the shelf on which the object is living.  Once the object is removed, an Object Movement ticket is completed to show the object number, title, old location, new location, reason, who it was moved by, when, and if this is a permanent move or not. 

Back at the gallery, the artworks were unwrapped and placed around the gallery space to decide on the positioning.  The large Alan Lowndes painting was perfect for the back wall!  Bronwen (Collections Access Officer) and Andy (Technician) then hung the artwork, measuring the wall space for equal spacing and height.  Number labels were then placed next to each artwork for a handlist.

Street Scene