Documentation Assistants in Space

…Storage space, that is. And my title is actually now Documentation/Collections Assistant. Which is a small but important distinction, as it marks the end of a long, desk-bound year, and the beginning of a three-year project in which I will actually get out of my office and finally see some objects! I’m so excited. So far I’ve only seen photos of most of the objects I’ve worked on, because my job has purely been data-tidying for the Collections Online project, the (mostly) impressive-looking results of which are available here. I’m particulaly proud of the Natural History records, because I worked bloody hard on them, as did our lovely curators, and we got them finished in a very short space of time (the 294 records for the Cooper Collection of skeletal mammal material were done in a week flat). I even enjoyed the three laborious days I spent poring over historical maps of Christchurch, Dorset, in order to ascertain the provenance of the various specimens in the Hart Bird Collection (a beautiful collection of bird taxidermy dioramas constructed by the eminent taxidermist Edward Hart in the 19th and early 20th century).

Now I get to sally forth into the collections for work on the ACE-funded Ethnography Re-Envisioned collections review. I even got to choose some steel-toecapped boots for myself last week (safety first), which I’ve never needed before because I’ve rarely had the opportunity to handle objects. The project is in its very early stages…we are currently compiling a comprehensive location list for all of our storage areas to ensure that they are all entered in our collections management database, and in a consistent format. This has to be done before we can really begin on the review, as we need to be able to produce object lists by their location in the store.

The next stage will be to cross-reference the database records with the original accession registers to make sure that we have all the available data for our objects (and that it is all correct), and THEN we will finally begin working with the objects themselves – measuring, marking, photographing, etc., hopefully with the help of some curators to check the identification and provenance of objects. Which is something I am obviously incapable of doing, as I’m a natural historian with a very limited knowledge of ethnography (i.e. none at all)! All the same, I am looking forward to exploring the ethnography collections of the Horniman, as we have some really fascinating objects which you don’t need to know anything about to appreciate for their beauty (or occasionally hideousness!) and the skill of their construction.

As an off-topic aside, while running (figuratively – never run in a museum, kids) around the building this week listing locations on my spreadsheet, I took my camera with me to capture some of the natural history areas that I’ve not really had a chance to see before, such as the spirit store and the taxidermy collection. Here are some of my favourites…

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