The past couple of weeks its been all minerals here, and I can’t deny that I love it. I am in the very final stages of getting the Vernon Park Natural History collection compleated and this excites me so. Not because I want to have it over and done with because I have really enjoyed this project and have loved the specimens and objects I have come across, but because it has been quite a big task and the idea of completion seems to be one of overall satisfaction. I write this with only 7 boxes left to go through but that still will most likely take weeks, as I am working on a few other things too.
Like I said though, the past couple of weeks I have been working with the Mineral part of the collection which turned out to require a little more work than the rest. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, there are a few steps I had to take when opening a box;
1. Check if it is marked with a number. If it is marked place to one side. If not..
2. Locate the objects record on Modes and label the object with its RD number.
3. Take a photograph of the object. They all already have a photo on their records, however these were taken while in the draws; glare on the glass is visible and size of the objects are indeterminable. The new photos have a scale and are much clearer.
4. Pack the object. Wrapping the object in acid free tissue paper should suffice for larger or stable objects, but more fragile objects are safer wrapped in the paper and in an individual box.
5. Find a home for the object in the stores. The best place would be in with the part of the collection it relates to, so Minerals go with other Minerals in the Geology store.
6. Add the new photo and change its location on the Modes record.
And this is where it gets complicated. All locations an object has been to have to be accounted for and kept on their record since the RD project. Including the corridor outside my door. If we take one item, say, Find it Friday: Week 11’s object the Stalactite; before I took it out of the draw its locations looked like this:
Current location: CU, CORRIDOR. From: 25/3/2013 To: –
Home location: VP, GND FL, DRAWERS, MINERALS, D6. From: 12/10/2010 To: –
CU is the curatorial services, VP is Vernon Park, D is draw.
Obviously ‘current’ is where the object is at the moment but ‘home’ is where it belongs, so if it was ever used in an exhibition or on loan this is where it will always eventually return to.
As its ‘home’ location no longer exists and it has come back to us, its ‘home’ location will be changing. So once I had securely stored the item away in a new location, its locations looked like this:
Current location: CU, R164, S06, Box 4. From: 1/8/2013 To: –
Previous location: CU, CORRIDOR. From: 25/3/2013 To: 1/8/2013
Home location: CU, R164, S06, Box 4. From: 1/8/2013 To: –
Previous location: VP, GND FL, DRAWERS, MINERALS, D6. From: 12/10/2010 To: – 1/8/2013
R is Rack, S is shelf.
As you can see, ‘current’ and ‘home’ are now the same but if that object was to go on display in an exhibition, the ‘current’ would become ‘previous’ and another ‘current’, the exhibition location, would be added.
It is easy to get confused, but this is an important part of documentation, always knowing where an object is is essential. Regardless of the ease of locating an object if it is required, this is a big part of avoiding loss, damage, conservation issues and theft, which is the very core of collections management.
This is where most of the Mineral collection differed from the rest; some of them, maybe half of the samples were already marked with an identification number that was not an RD number; these are the objects put to one side in step 1. A few years ago a Retrospective Documentation (RD) project was undertaken of the Natural History collection on display at Vernon Park as the objects weren’t correctly documented on Modes. Most of the collection was on display in sealed drawers and could not be removed at the time so they were photographed in position, given an RD number on the Modes record and basically described there. However, unbeknown at the time, some of the samples already had an individual accession number and a record on Modes but the numbers that they were marked with were on the underside of the objects or not visible through the glass top of the draw, so they too were allocated a new RD number.
To correct this they needed to have their existing Modes records matched up with the relatively new RD records and their information shared, eventually allowing the RD record to be deleted.
As well as steps 3, 4, 5 and 6.
In addition to their Modes record every RD record that is created has a paper copy printed and filed away (only RDs are recorded this way as any other records are accessioned records and they are recorded in the accession register, which is a physical paper book, stored in a fireproof safe). This is to ensure there is always a record; RD’s are created in order, so RD.1 was the first way back when, and currently the final RD record avaliable on Modes is RD.34201. So if one was to disappear or get deleted, or a bunch were lost to a computer malfunction or a million other things that could happen, there is always that paper copy to refer to.
But, of course, I just told you that I’ve deleted some RD records, so what about the paper copy?
On their new records with their existing numbers there is a note attached saying that this object was once identified as…. and its RD number. The paper copy can not be just removed it has to stay in its file but it is made blatantly obvious that its merged with an accession number; “Reconciled with… and its RD number”, the date and the initials of the person making the alteration are written across the record so anyone who looks for this record knows what has happened.
I did this, in addition to the other steps, for just over 100 minerals, so as you can imagine it took some time. But the satisfaction of completely, affectively and properly documenting this section of the collection was great, finishing the VP collection over all is going to be even better!
I have also attended a few in-house training sessions the last few weeks; learning how to use Excel and how to use Powerpoint correctly. Both of these courses were held by a lady named Maureen and were excellent days to attend. She addressed how to use each program to the best of its ability and shared the things they could do that before I was not aware of, suggesting to me that whenever I did use these programs I was only using 10% of their functions.
Currently the rest of the HLF (Heritage Lottery Funded) trainees and myself are putting together a Powerpoint presentation each to talk about ourselves, our backgrounds, our current roles and what we hope for our futures. I am really enjoying doing this as with Maureen’s lesson I have discovered the great animations, transitions and features that Powerpoint has to offer. I am really looking forward to see what the other trainees put together and learning a bit more about them all!
And finally, last Thursday I took a trip with Angela to Stockport Central Library. This year the library turned 100 years old after opening in 1913. There were decorations galore in celebration of this; Lauren, the HLF trainee for the library posted a blog about it which you can read HERE! The library staff did so much work and preparation for the event and it seems it was a great success. We also did some preparation here…
There is a small case in the library, up the stairs and in front of the local history library that is the responsibility of the Curatorial Services. Its changed often with displays in recent years on geology, cameras, wooly hats and glassware. The glassware display, ‘A touch of Glass’, was put together a few months ago by Emma and so on Thursday we went to change it to a theme much more related to the celebrations, and notably the year the library opened; 1913.
Angela had done all the research and the information for the display, I only helped with gathering the objects together out of the collection and taking out Emma’s display to put the new one in.
Angela had chosen the topic of Miss Gabrielle Ray.
Gabrielle Ray, born in Cheadle, Stockport, was a stage actress, dancer and singer, best known for her roles in Edwardian musical comedies. She became one of the most photographed women in the world and her photograph was much sought after by popular publications and leading photographers of the day. Gaiety Girl Gabrielle Ray was considered one of the most beautiful actresses on the London stage and her career flourished throughout the early 1900s. Unfortunately, she struggled with depression and her health declined through alcohol abuse. In 1936, she suffered a breakdown and spent almost 40 years in institutions.
Despite Ray’s story ending in such grave sadness, she was a wonderful woman and an inspiration. To learn more about her life, her career and the wonderful costumes she would wear visit Stockport Central Library and the bright lights of Edwardian theatre shows in ‘Remembering Miss Gabrielle Ray’!