This April I was in Dublin for a few days, speaking at Collective Imagination 2019, the conference for users of TMS museum collection management software. This is a brief post about the conference and my lecture, and a visit to the Dublin Museum of Natural History.
We’re coming up to the autumn conference season, and once again I’ll be going to the annual conference of CIDOC, the international committee for documentation that forms part of ICOM, the International Council of Museums – this year it’s in Heraklion, in Crete. Before the conference proper, I’ll be running a workshop on Sunday 30 September, along with colleagues from CIDOC’s Documentation Standards Working Group, for developers of digital collections management systems, focussed on the development of ‘EODEM’, an Exhibition Object Digital Exchange Mechanism.
We plan to kick off the development of a mechanism that lets users of different collections management systems share as easily as possible the information about their objects, and those objects’ requirements, that is needed when objects are lent from one institution to another. The lender should be able to just press a button to share the data, and the borrower just press another to import it into their system. This would eliminate a huge amount of the retyping that goes on when different museums exchange information about objects that they are lending and borrowing.
First, though, we need to identify the information that museums need to share. We’ll base the core information that identifies and describes the objects themselves on an existing standard, Object ID; but we need to know what information museums needs to share about borrowed objects’ requirements.
And here’s where I hope you can help us: the easiest way to do this will be for us to look at the information different museums request when they borrow objects. This is often requested using a ‘loan object information request form’, which the lending museum is asked to fill in for each object, giving its environmental needs, minimum security levels, etc. We’d like you to send us a copy of your museum’s ‘loan object information request form’ (blank, of course: we really don’t need sensitive individual object information, just the empty form so we can understand what you need to know). Drop me a line in the comments box at the foot of this page, and I’ll email you an address you can send the form to.
Once we have the forms, my colleagues and I will collate them all, draw up a list of the different pieces of information museums are asking for, and pass it to the system developers to incorporate into EODEM.
If all goes according to plan, future generations of registrars, exhibition organisers, and documentation staff will be forever in your debt!
I’ve just (well, the month before last – but in terms of my writing on this site, that counts as ‘just’) got back from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where I was attending the 2017 annual conference of CIDOC, the international organisation for those working in museum documentation.1 As well as a fascinating range of papers from many countries, visits to Georgian museums (and opportunities to sample Georgian wines), I facilitated a couple of sessions dedicated to the CIDOC Documentation Standards Working Group (DSWG)’s Encyclopaedia of Museum Practice – ably helped by my co-facilitators, Maija Ekosaari and Jan Behrendt, and filling in for the DSWG’s co-chair, Jonathan Whitson Cloud.
I was shocked to realise that I received my Ph.D. twenty years ago this year. Because the subject I chose – an examination of the writings on art and architecture of the Bolognese notary and author Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti (c. 1443-1510) – divided neatly into two halves, it was never really book-shaped, and so the only real publications I’ve managed to extract from it over the years were my Apollo article on looking at coins (which I wrote about recently here),1 and two articles in books, based on the second half of the thesis, which dealt with the concept of magnificence.2
- Rupert Shepherd, ‘A Letter Concerning Coins in Sixteenth-century Ferrara’, Apollo, Volume CXLIX, Number 443 (New Series) (January 1999), pp. 40-43; full text. [↩]
- Rupert Shepherd, ‘Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti and a Practical Definition of Magnificence in the Context of Renaissance Architecture’, in Mary Rogers and Francis Ames-Lewis eds, Concepts of Beauty in Renaissance Art, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998), pp. 52-65; Rupert Shepherd, ‘Republican Anxiety and Courtly Confidence: The Politics of Magnificence and Fifteenth-Century Italian Architecture’, in Michelle O’Malley and Evelyn Welch, eds, The Material Renaissance: Costs and Consumption in Italy, c.1400-1650, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), pp. 47-70. [↩]
A few months ago, I received an email via the contacts page on this website from Franco Saetti, an Italian numismatist, asking me to send him a copy of an article [5 MB PDF] I had written many years ago, discussing a letter which describes a group of people looking at, and discussing, newly-minted coins in Bologna in 1505.1
I scanned a copy of the article and sent it to Ing. Saetti. I was delighted to receive a packet from him a few weeks later, containing a couple of offprints of his own which discussed the same coins as my article.2 I read Ing. Saetti’s articles with interest, and they led to some further thoughts about my article. Continue reading A note about an article about a letter about looking at coins
- Rupert Shepherd, ‘A letter concerning coins in sixteenth-century Ferrara’, Apollo, new ser., 149/443 (January 1999), pp. 40-43. [↩]
- Franco Saetti, ‘Immagini prospettiche nella monetazione rinascimentale italiana: il doppio ducato di Alfonso I d’Este, Rivista italiana di numismatica e scienze affini, 101 (2000), pp. 113-137; id., ‘“Prove” in rame di monete del rinascimento italiano con ritratto’, Rivista italiana di numismatica e scienze affini, 116 (2015), pp. 329-358. [↩]
I’ve been keeping quiet about what I’ve been doing since starting work as Collection Information Manager at the National Gallery in February last year: much has been routine, and I was still planning the more ambitious part of my work, the Gallery’s Collection Information Project. But the project is now underway, with a project manager and data wrangler both now at work.
However, rather than post something here, I’ve taken the opportunity of an invitation to write a piece for the blog that has just been set up by CIDOC, the international organisation for museum documentation, to describe the problems that we face at the Gallery, and how the Collection Information Project plans to solve them. You can read it here.
Every now and again, a cry of anguish from appears on Twitter from Mark Carnall, Life Collections Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, labelled with the #MuseumDocumentation hashtag. This is hardly surprising: like most of us who work in documentation, particularly those dealing with collections which have built up over a period of time, Mark often has to deal with multiple object records of variable quality.
Last Friday, he decided to live tweet a day spent cleaning reptile records in multiple databases (as he points out, one of these was a Word document, which really does stretch the definition of ‘databases’). Because this gives a nice insight into the kinds of problems that many of us face at regular intervals, I’ve Storifyed his tweets for posterity; you can read them here. As you will see, in addition to the usual difficulties caused by a collection’s documentation ‘evolving’ over time, natural history collections seem to suffer from some particular problems of their own – including the (to me) surprisingly fluid nature of many scientific names.
July was a busy month – so busy, that I’ve only now finished writing up notes from the five different conferences, workshops and meetings that I attended in just over three weeks. But why spend so much time out of the office? Continue reading One month, five events
Further to my piece on Captain Colbeck’s eggs, I was delighted to be invited to the unveiling of a plaque in memory of William Colbeck on the site of his old house at Inchmery Road in Catford, south-east London. Organised by Sandra Margolies, Colbeck’s grand-daughter, the event was attended by many of Colbeck’s descendants – as well as relatives of his former shipmate on the SY Morning, Alfred Cheetham, and of E. A. Wilson, the zoologist and junior surgeon on the Discovery expedition and chief of the scientific staff on the Terra Nova expedition.
There were speeches by Kate Richardson, of the Culverley Green Residents’ Association; Donald Lamont, chairman of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust; and Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham. The plaque was ‘unveiled’ by Kevin Fewster, Director of Royal Museums Greenwich. Everyone was given copies of the burgee of the Pirate Yacht Club, Bridlington, taken by Colbeck on the Southern Cross expedition, to wave.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for this site about a series of objects from Antarctica that had been collected by the Horniman Museum and – in several cases – subsequently disposed of. I also wrote a longer essay for the Horniman’s website about the objects. In the latter piece, I noted that we had been unable to find some of the better-documented objects: several birds’ eggs donated by a person named in the registers as C. T. Colbeck (see also here). I was, therefore, delighted to receive a tweet a couple of weeks ago from my former colleague Justine Aw, saying that the eggs had been found whilst working through the Horniman’s collections following a collection review. Continue reading Captain Colbeck’s eggs