Diary of the Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre intern – month 4

By Moya Sherriff, Intern, Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre

Over the past few weeks at the Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre we have been looking at museum administration matters such as collection insurance. This is the type of thing that was certainly covered in my Museum Studies course, but I guess like a number of things it is something that got tucked away in the back of my mind. My initial thoughts were that to insure museum collections is important as it gives organisations the ability to conserve items that have been damaged – but there must be more reasons!
Members of Ngai Tahu working on their taonga collections.
Members of Ngai Tahu working on their taonga collections.

I sought advice from Darren Hammond (Curatorial Officer, Air Force Museum), Therese Angelo (Director, Air Force Museum) and Judith Taylor (Museum Development Officer, National Services Te Paerangi) on the rest of the insurance picture, and these are some of the points they made. It is rare that items are completely destroyed, as we have certainly found within the Recovery Centre. For example, if a collection store had a fire which set off the sprinkler system, then you may have items that are not completely burnt but wet, therefore insurance would not only allow for conservation treatment, but also funds for equipment, expert advice, storage while in recovery mode as well as perhaps the ability to pay staff to carry out the recovery process. Another valid question asked was why potential sponsors or funders would wish to invest in the preservation and storage of collections if they are not insured?

An additional thought was should museums go for nominal insurance sums, or is it best to get collections valued? It seems that valuation of collections is a good approach as it can certainly bring up interesting facts and figures about items that perhaps may have been previously overlooked. It has been pointed out that having collections listed, catalogued and recorded would make this process a lot easier – something we are certainly working towards in the CCCRC.

CRFU members working with collections during the triage process.
CRFU members working with collections during the triage process.

Meanwhile, a couple of the groups are continuing with the triage process. The most interesting item we came across last week starts with a story:

As I am sitting at my laptop, adding another World Cup Rugby programme to the Canterbury Rugby Football Union (CRFU) triage sheet, I hear a series of whispers coming through the shelves, followed by “Moya, what do think this is?” A white gloved hand presents what appears to be “Um, a tennis ball, with a rubber band around it”. I admit what crossed my mind was, why? What does this have to do with Canterbury Rugby? It’s a tennis ball! Les from the CRFU laughs, carefully outlines the surface of the ball and explains “See it has been cut in half, the rubber band holds the ball together and the inside of it has been filled with tacks and broken blades so when it was thrown the ball splits open”. Ok Les, now you have my attention! “What is it for? What is the story behind this?” Les cheekily remarks “Do you know what happened in 1981? – were you even born then?!” Click! Wow – this is from the 1981 Springbok tour! This is what was thrown onto the pitch at Lancaster Park and rescued by the people who I am luckily enough to work with! This is amazing!

As you can imagine the next half an hour was spent looking at other artefacts from that tour; the fliers, the ball and the red popsicle crosses. Members of the CRFU reminisced on the events of the day, with me constantly firing questions. This was another huge reminder from Museum Studies – provenance, and the recording of it, is critical. At first it was just a tennis ball but once I knew the history, story and context of it, I now think that this is something that represents a really significant event in our nation’s history!

CRFU member exploring 1981 Springbok Tour artefacts.
CRFU member exploring 1981 Springbok Tour artefacts.

Moya Sherriff

Intern, CCCRC


All images courtesy of Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre.

Other posts by Moya:

Diary of the CCCRC intern – month 1

Diary of the CCCRC intern – month 2

Diary of the CCCRC intern – month 3