Hi my name is Jacob and I am the Collections Management Trainee at NMS. I am a history graduate from the University of Kent and before I applied to the traineeship scheme I had very little knowledge of what really went on behind the scenes at a museum let alone what collections management entailed. Having worked for Norfolk Museums Service for 6 months I can say with confidence that collections management suits me to a T. Now that’s not to say that collections management is for everyone, some people keel over with boredom at the very mention of a Modes subset, but I believe working with our collections data is an important and excited area of the museum sector. I have developed a passion for making our records as accurate as possible, and then using this data in innovative ways, adding to the visitors experience. I also love problem solving and my role here at the museum requires so much of it, meaning no day is ever the same and I am always challenged.
I was recently asked to produce a short introduction to collections management for the museum’s youth forum. The youth forum is a group of young adults interested in museums and regularly hold meeting and give talks at the castle. I started to make a mind map of all the things associated with collections management but quickly ran out of space! We are a support department to the whole organisation, from visitor services to the exhibitions team. However we cant do everything and so collections management and care should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Without proper management and care we wouldn’t have objects to display or anything to say about them. To make sure this doesn’t happen we support the staff by maintaining the collections database; Modes and by advising and training to anyone who uses it.
That’s not to say that we don’t have our own projects. Since I arrived in January I have been helping deliver the new collections website. This has involved organising top objects from all of the curatorial departments and museums, supporting the capture of high quality object images, and cleaning the data to make sure the website is easy to navigate. When the website launches on 31st July we will have an well produced site which will cater for both the serious researcher and the “culture snacker”. At first visitors will be able to view our top objects organised into different themes but we will be updating the data set weekly until our whole collection is online. The motto in our office is “create once, publish everywhere” meaning once we have excellent data we can use it in lots of different ways.
But to do any publication of our data we first need accurate information of all our objects. Without wishing to air our dirty laundry we have there are some outstanding issues with our object records. Part of my position here has been to work with curators at two museums in Norwich in order to make sure all of the stored objects can be easily located. Museums are centres of study, we get enquiries into our collections every week. If we can’t find the object that the member of the public is looking for then we are failing in making the collections accessible. On a personal side working in the stores on an open box location audit has allowed me to get up close to the objects and has fed into my interest in social history. As part of the audit I have also been photographing the collection and adding these images to the records. Practice really has made perfect and since then I have supported a number of other trainees in their own digitisation projects.
I’ve really enjoyed the first half of the traineeship. I hope to update you with everything that happens in the next half. I will be working further in the stores at Strangers’ Hall and will have a very interesting partnership with Google to report back on. Please subscribe to the blog to get updates from me and all the other trainees.