Hi all, Scott here.
August has been a very busy month for me at Colchester Museums. I held an Out of the Box session, pitched for objects to become part of our collection and, together with the rest of our team, ran Vintage in the Park at Hollytrees Museum!
My summer Out of the Box session allowed me to show off some of the items that did not make it into my What’s in Store display. This included a chest depicting St Helena, four Oyster Feast menu covers depicting Old King Cole, a news article written in 1891 and a creepy St Helena doll.
The doll was particularly fitting to the ‘What’s in Store’ theme, as long ago it had been packaged incorrectly. Crammed into a small, unsuitable box, with alternative costumes thrown in, both the doll and its packaging demonstrated poor storage practice. With over 500,000 items in our collection, many of which were originally stored decades ago, some objects are not packaged as they should be. It was fun to share this behind the scenes knowledge with visitors, making the actual packaging part of my Out of the Box session. Of course, I repackaged the doll and it’s costumes correctly afterwards, laying it face down (so the eyes don’t fall out) and giving it plenty of space and support. (ps. it’s hair is made from real human hair! and our conservator assured me it was ‘highly flammable’. Spooky.)
Over the last few months I have been gathering a small collection of items that were located in our stores, but not part of our collection. There are a number of reasons why an object might find itself in one of our stores without being accessioned. It is mostly likely from a time when documentation procedures were not followed quite as well as they are now. Thankfully, this does not happen often at CIMS. I found 4 objects that were, technically speaking, not part of our collection. This included a Micky Mouse gas mask, NHS nurse caps, glass plate negatives and some cameras. After researching the items, and cross referencing them with our current records, I recognised that our collection would benefit from most of them. I then took the objects to a ‘Collections Learning Group’. This group, made up of museum staff, determines if we should accession something into our collection. I am thrilled that all of the objects I pitched have been selected to join Colchester’s collection.
It is now my job to add these items to our database, giving them an object ID number, storage location and description (including measurements and condition). I will also be contacting the people who donated them to ask for additional information where it’s required.
Lastly, Vintage in the Park finally happened and it was a great successes! Despite some bad weather in the morning, everything went according to plan. The stalls had great merchandise, the musicians were amazing and over 300 people visited Hollytrees Museum, well exceeding our target. Once we have conducted our evaluation Alex, Elisha or I will share more details!