Accessioning a purchase

Book of prose and a solander box containing watercolours by Thomas Kay

Another post for a nice task I have undertaken recently!  A lot of watercolours came up for auction, that were by a former Mayor of Stockport (1913) who was also in the local pharmaceuticals business.  His name was Thomas Kay, and he was a great fan of the arts – becoming a patron by setting up an arts grant.  13 of his watercolours and a book of his prose was being sold at auction, and Katie made a successful bid.  When the watercolours arrived, Katie gave the job of unpacking, accessioning and re-packing  the objects to me, which I have very much enjoyed.  The watercolours show scenes from a variety of places; it would seem Thomas Kay was a well-travelled gentleman.

Inscription on watercolour

I have written all of the information known and researched about each watercolour in the MODES record, taken a photograph to attach to the record and written (in 2B pencil) the object number on the back of each object.  These are housed in a large solander box which will be kept on a shelf with other artworks in the stores. 

I have also been able to write in the accession register, which is the hard-copy format (kept in a fire-proof safe!) for all entry items being accessioned into the collection.  This asks for the date accessioned, the date of entry, a brief description and the source of the object (gift, purchase, bequest).

Using the Accession Register


MA Conference – Edinburgh, and a quick pitstop in Glasgow

I attended the Museums Association Exhibition and Conference on the 8th and 9th of November.  This year it was hosted by Edinburgh, at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.  There were many keynote speeches, training workshops and debates to attend, as well as a networking event and ceilidh dancing at the National Museum of Scotland on the first evening.

(L-R) Beatrice, Louise and Natasha at the reception evening at the National Museum of Scotland.

I met up with two HLF Skills for the Future trainees, Beatrice McDermott, who is based at the Garden Museum in London and Katherine Reed, who is based at the Chiltern Open Air Museum.  Katherine was volunteering as a steward for the conference so she was very busy and we only met briefly.  It was lovely to meet in person, having only been in contact via Facebook and Twitter previously!  While we were there, we formed a group with Natasha Honeyman, who is an MA student and works part-time for Brisbane’s Living Heritage Network in Autralia.  She had come over to England for two weeks, especially to attend the conference.  It was great to speak to a museum professional and museum studies student fromthe other side of the world, and find out about how things are done!  We also met Louise, an MA student in Scotland.

Natural history ceiling display in the National Museum of Scotland

The most valuable aspect of the conference was the opporunity to attend ‘Smarter Training’ sessions, short 30 minute training workshops run by musuem professionals and consultants.  I joined the following:

  • Getting your story out there – how to run a media campaign
  • Perfect prose – top tips to improve your text
  • Focus, focus, focus – producing creative and effective audio and AV
  • Running Twitter and Facebook accounts – the nitty gritty

These short training sessions were packed with tips, examples and best practice advice, which I particularly enjoyed and gained a lot from.

Martin Roth – Director of the V&A

There were also keynote speeches by various speakers; Fiona Hyslop (Cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs), Aamer Anwar (Criminal defence lawyer), Martin Roth (Director of the V&A), and Mark O’Neill(Director of policy and research at Glagow Life).  These speeches raised various points about cultural identity, social justice, independance for Scotland, international work, partnerships in the UK, opportunities and challenges facing the museums sector, and access.

Other sessions:

  • ‘Teaching Museums – shaping the next generation’.  This session discussed the future museum professional and what attributes, qualities, skills and qualification or training they may need, as well as the country’s first ”Teaching Museum’ in Norfolk (see Norfolk County Council news for details) – using the idea of a teaching hospital for the museums sector.
  • ‘Expanding Horizons’.  This session discussed international partnerships, sharing skills and opening communication.  A case study of work in the Balkans was presented.
  • ‘Unlocking the past’.  This session presented case studies of prisoners working with museum collections, and argued for the value of this practice.
  • ‘Iobject! Working through conflict in musuems’ – This session talked about various instances of conflict and differences within museums.   Groups then talked about any examples of conflict they had experienced and the outcome.

Overall the MA Conference was a great experience, which offered many talks, training and events to attend.  It was a shame however, that many of the talks and workshops overlapped, which resulted in having to choose one session and miss other interesting presentations.

Whilst in Edinburgh, I made a pitstop to Glasgow to see friends and visit a museum – this time it was the Riverside Museum. I do intend to go back to Glasgow again soon and sample some of the other museums and galleries on offer there!  I thought that the interpretation and display of objects at the Riverside Museum was interesting and bright, a good use of the large and almost clinical space.  See pictures below.

cars and dresses...

cars and dresses…

my friends in an old tram ...and part of 'Main Street'

my friends in an old tram …and part of ‘Main Street’


Upper Clyde Shipbuilders poster

Upper Clyde Shipbuilders poster

A Touch of Glass


If you follow my tweets (@emma_museums) then you may have seen that a few weeks ago I was busy researching for an exhibition of glasswares for a display case in the Local Heritage Library, to replace the previous Olympics themed-exhibition.

The display case in the Local Heritage Library gives the curatorial team the opportunity to showcase some of our collection, in this instance the unusual and varied glass objects in Stockport’s museum collection.

Glass objects chosen for display before packaging and transportation to the Local Heritage Library.

Whilst researching Codd bottles, the two displayed being local to Stockport,  I came across the folklore that the phrase ‘Coddswallop’ dervied from the codd bottle and the cheap local beer found in them!  This sparked an idea for the interpretation I developed, with two people shouting phrases to one another from either side of the case.  In addition to this, I created a main A3 ‘panel’, in the form of laminated paper, with some background information about glass and different ways it is formed.

A Touch of Glass – finished case

Preparing for this mini-exhibition was a great experience, due to the many jobs it entailed.  These included:

  • Searching MODES for potential glass objects
  • Going into the stores and retrieving the objects
  • Completing ‘Object Movement Tickets’
  • Photographing objects that had no image attached to the record on MODES
  • Researching the formation of glass and other information for interpretation
  • Creating labels for displaying inside the case
  • Creating interpretation posters
  • Packing and transporting the objects
  • Dressing the case
  • Displaying the objects
  • Updating MODES with the temporary location of the objects

On the day I had Nicola (Curatorial Officer) with me, and she helped to pack away the objects from the former display, and to offer advice on how to best display the glasswares.

This was a really fun project to manage, and hopefully I will get the chance to do another one soon!

If you would like to visit the glassware exhibition, and indeed the Local Heritage Library, you can find the opening hours and directions here.

Tatty bye!

Standing next to the finished case