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 collectionspace.org – 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.