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.
In preparation for a short talk which I’ll be delivering with Angela Kipp of the Registrar Trek blog at one of the CIDOC strands at the ICOM 2016 conference in Milan, I’ve been looking at how the #MuseumDocumentation Twitter hashtag has been doing, using a snapshot of the last nine days provided by TweetReach. I’ve Storified the top tweets and contributors, and you can see the results here.
Recognise yourself amongst the top tweets or contributors?
I gave a talk today at the Museums + Heritage Show, about a major collection review which took place at my previous employer, the Horniman Museum , between 2012 and 2015.
The whole talk is available elsewhere on this site, albeit rather buried, because I’ve treated it as a publication rather than a post – fair enough, given that it’s a few thousand words long. But I thought a quick summary might be interesting for those of you who don’t want to read the whole thing. Continue reading Reviewing your collections?
My colleagues who work in museum documentation have rightly been indignant about an article published by the Daily Telegraph yesterday, under the attention-seeking headline ‘Half of world’s museum specimens are wrongly labelled’. Continue reading Why half the world’s museum specimens are wrongly labelled
I was flattered to receive an email a few months ago from Nick Poole, at that point still the Chief Executive of Collections Trust, asking me to speak at the Trust’s forthcoming annual conference. Nick suggested that I might ‘take a look at where we are today with documentation, which challenges have been solved and which are still to be addressed’ – all in twenty minutes! Those of you that know me will also realise that this isn’t really the way I work: I prefer to start with the detail and work outwards from that, rather than beginning with grand abstractions about the bigger picture. But after a quick exchange of emails, Nick and I agreed a subject, and I gave my lecture at the Collections Trust 2015 conference at the Natural History Museum a few weeks ago.
Continue reading What should we be doing next?
I realise, looking at this site’s dashboard, that I’ve not posted much recently. In part this is down to personal distractions; in part it’s because I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and some writing, on the subject of renaissance magnificence – on which, I hope, more will follow later; and in part it’s because I’ve had my head down with things like a complete review of the Horniman Museum’s core documentation procedures prior to an accreditation return (if you work in UK museums, you’ll understand what that entails). Then I received a Twitter notification to say that Katie Hobbs had nominated me in the Twitterati Challenge. Continue reading #TwitteratiChallenge
Being responsible for the Horniman Museum’s documentation, I normally find myself sitting in front of a computer screen, or in meetings. Every once in a while, though, I’m allowed out to meet my colleagues from other institutions, find out what they’re doing, and compare experiences. Previously, this has usually been at the annual OpenCulture conference run by Collections Trust; but this year I spent four days in Dresden at the 2014 annual conference of the Comité International pour la Documentation (CIDOC), the branch of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) interested in documentation.
Continue reading What I did this summer, or: CIDOC 2014
This is the last of a series of posts looking at the lessons about museum documentation thrown up whilst I was researching my recent article on the website of the Horniman Museum (where I work as Documentation Manager), investigating the objects related to the ‘Heroic Age’ of Antarctic exploration which were once owned by the Horniman. I’ve already looked at accession registers, capturing and sharing information, and recording what happens to objects. This last post is slightly different, as it’s less about the past, and more about the present: I want to talk about my intentions when putting information about the Antarctic relics – and all the Horniman’s objects – online.
Continue reading Learning from the past 4: putting information online