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 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
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?
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