Learning from the past 1: accession registers

A couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of the centenary of the departure of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (also known as the Endurance expedition) to publish an 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 said something about what these objects add to our knowledge of Antarctic history, but the process of researching the article has also thrown up some valuable lessons in museum documentation, and I thought I’d share them here, in a series of posts. First, I’ll look at accession registers; then, capturing and sharing information; third, recording what happens to objects; and finally, looking at how we can make that information available online.

Continue reading Learning from the past 1: accession registers

Antarctic relics

Charles Sergeant Jagger’s bronze statue of Sir Ernest Shackleton, c.1932, Royal Geographical Society, London. Photo: © Rupert Shepherd
Charles Sergeant Jagger’s bronze statue of Sir Ernest Shackleton, c.1932, Royal Geographical Society, London. Photo: © Rupert Shepherd

100 years  ago today, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance left Plymouth for the Antarctic. The story of his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – how the Endurance was trapped by ice,  and drifted for hundred of miles before being crushed; how her crew camped for months on the drifting ice, then rowed for 6 days to reach the desolate and uninhabited Elephant Island; and how Shackleton and five companions sailed an open boat across 800 miles of the world’s stormiest seas before Shackleton, Crean and Worsley walked non-stop for 36 miles across the icy mountains of South Georgia to fetch help – is well known, and I’ll say no more about it here.

But the centenary of Shackleton’s departure also seemed an ideal time to publish an article on the Horniman Museum’s website about the Antarctic objects which the museum once owned. Continue reading Antarctic relics

A sordid tale of fast living in the stores?

A few weeks ago, I was standing in the Pot Room, accompanied by a dog who was half skeleton, half fur, being told by someone I’d never met before that I was losing it.

Continue reading A sordid tale of fast living in the stores?

Tips for an effective museum job application

A couple of months ago, I was on the shortlisting and interviewing panel for a documentation-related museum job. Although we had some very good applications, the overall standard was worryingly low. It looked as though many applicants hadn’t been told about what makes a good application, so I’d like to offer some advice here.

Continue reading Tips for an effective museum job application

The invisibility of museum documentation

I’ve been thinking about museum documentation quite a lot recently. You might say this is unsurprising – after all, I’m paid to manage documentation at the Horniman Museum. But what’s vexed me particularly is the matter of documentation’s invisibility: the way it’s seldom mentioned publicly, despite underpinning everything a museum does.

Continue reading The invisibility of museum documentation

New website

If you’ve visited my website at all recently, you’ll have noticed that it’s been looking a little tired. I wrote it several years ago as a static site, and unsurprisingly haven’t been keeping it up to date as often as I’d like.

Continue reading New website

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