By Moya Sherriff, Intern, Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre
The past four weeks have been filled with a variety of activities within the Recovery Centre (RC). We have had one group return to their home, following the completion of Ngaio Marsh House’s EQC repairs. As one group leaves another has joined, with the Tramway Historical Society hoisting their cable car into the RC while their storage facilities at Ferrymead are full, housing the city’s trams. Archives NZ have also added additional pallets to their storage area.
Sticking with the theme of moving, during this month members of the Air Force Museum Team, Matthew O’Sullivan (Keeper of Photographs), Emma Meyer (Collections Technician), Michelle Sim (Archives Technician) and myself, in the interest of professional development, have been working on the textile collections within the Air Force Museum once a week. In order to reorganise the storage of this collection, we have had to move items belonging to other organisations into the RC that whad been housed in the Air Force Museum clothing rooms since the earthquakes. This has presented another opportunity for me to exercise the safe handling and transport of artefacts.
At the beginning of November the RC hosted the Canterbury Disaster Salvage Team. This organisation is run by a group of professionals based in Christchurch who specialise in Disaster Recovery within the cultural and heritage sector. As part of their annual workshop they conducted a bus tour of Christchurch, looking at the recovery status of the sector. Their visit to the RC was hosted by Darren Hammond (Curatorial Officer, Air Force Museum), Matthew O’Sullivan (Keeper of Photographs, Air Force Museum), Sue McKenzie (Kaiapoi Museum), Neil Gow (Canterbury Rugby Football Union) and myself. Although Neil did pull me up for being unpatriotic by wearing Wellington colours on the day, it was a good opportunity to meet people from outside Canterbury, and a number of interesting points and questions were raised surrounding the concept of joint community storage spaces for historical collections.
At the moment, a couple of the groups are at the tail end of the triage process. This has meant during the short periods of time when I find myself alone in the RC I have been schooling up on museum cataloguing and documentation. Primary reasons groups in the RC have given for cataloguing their collections is to record the history (or provenance) of the artefacts, or as a way of recording what they have and giving them the ability to find items within storage. Taking these points further, what I have also discovered is that the overarching reason museums catalogue their collections is because every museum activity is linked to this web of information. For the day to day running of the museum a good catalogue aids in exhibition planning, from content to installation requirements. It also assists museum staff in the speedy and accurate reply of public inquiries which can enhance a museum’s reputation and profile. From a collections care point of view it provides a way of monitoring the stability of a museum’s artefacts as well as providing evidence for any insurance claims. From a management point of view, having an extensive catalogue gives organisations a way of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their collections, as well as the ability to compare inventories with other institutions and perhaps come to some sort of agreement on what each organisation’s collection boundaries will be, to prevent an overlapping of resources. A good catalogue can also assist in establishing relationships with other organisations, providing information that can generate opportunities for collaborating in exhibitions and research resources for public enjoyment.
Other posts by Moya:
Diary of the CCCRC intern – month 2