By Moya Sherriff, Intern, Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre
The past month has trundled along with a couple of new groups moving in to the Recovery Centre, namely the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust and the Ruku Te Kauki Taiaroa Tuatini Archival Collection.
During March, I was fortunate enough to attend the Museums Aotearoa Conference in Napier thanks to National Services Te Paerangi and the Air Force Museum Trust Board. Not only did I enjoy summer weather and the Art Deco buzz of the city, but as this was my first conference it was particularly exciting to present my take on a typical working week within the Recovery Centre during the Emerging Museum Professionals (EMP) Group pecha kucha session. The rest of these sessions for me were a real highlight. We saw different projects my fellow EMPs had been working on, such as Museum of Transport and Technology’s deaccessioning tasks, Rotorua Museum’s Nightmare at the Museum Horror Walk, and the savviest topic, ‘Can Museums Save the World?’ which observed museum quests to make a difference in the world.
Back in Christchurch, the majority of the larger groups are in the full swing of cataloguing and boxing items. On reflection there is quite a variety of cataloguing systems that each group uses within the Recovery Centre and the ability for me to be able to switch between each system is a trait that I would not have imagined needing when I first started.
Moya cataloguing and packaging some Kaiapoi Museum textiles
A couple of the groups use pre-made museum software systems, for example, PastPerfect and eHive. Both contain the same basic information required of a good museum catalogue, like accession number, classification, name, brief description, place made, year made, material the item is made of, maker, production technique, measurements, inscriptions, provenance, catalogue date and name of cataloguer, and a photograph of the item as well as a note of its location. One of the groups uniquely have their own catalogue system that was created by their IT department.
St John cataloguing their First Aid handbooks
One of the real take home points that I have discovered within this role is the importance of donor documentation and this comes hand in hand with a good catalogue. If an organisation fails to have a good set of donor records problems can arise, such as a donor or a donor relative approaching the museum requesting for the item to be returned. While the museum may have had an item in storage for over 20 years, unless the museum can prove it has legal title to the object, ethically and to ensure good public relations it must be returned – but only if the museum is satisfied that the relative requesting the return has legal title to the object and can prove it. While what has been done in the past cannot be erased, the key elements to good documentation should include a donor receipt on the object’s entry to the museum, that records who is donating the item, their contact details, a list and description of what was gifted, along with the donor’s signature verifying the transfer of ownership to the museum. This receipt, along with any further documents or correspondence between the donor and the museum, should also be kept within the museum’s records. It may seem like a hassle now, but good documentation will prevent issues arising in the future.
Members of the Nurses Memorial Chapel completing an initial inventory of their collection
Images: All images courtesy of Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre.
Other posts by Moya:
Diary of the CCCRC intern – month 2