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.
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.
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.
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?
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.