The Collection Management and Collection Care Day at the Museum (Natalia Puchalska, ITP Communications Volunteer)
Written by Natalia Puchalska, International Training Programme Communications Volunteer
On Wednesday, 17 July, I had an enormous pleasure to join the Fellows in the Collection Management and Collection Care workshops. The day was significant for me, as after several months of virtual interactions, I finally got to meet the Fellows in person! We spent the whole day revising and expanding our knowledge on managing and protecting museum collections, which I found especially useful.
The session began with a presentation delivered by the Collection Care department’s representatives, including Shelley Seston, Senior Collection Manager: Care and Access. She introduced us briefly to the different aspects of collection care, such as storage grading, hypothetical hazards and the criteria of testing objects against various external factors and substances. This was followed up by a discussion initiated by Nyaz Azez (ITP 2019, Kurdistan) on the transportation issues of excavated objects.
The presentation was only an introduction to the exciting part when we were given a unique opportunity to see inner-workings of storages in some of the Museum’s departments. I was lucky to join a team exploring the depository of the Egypt and Sudan Department. The wide scope of the Department’s collection stimulated our imagination, and vast knowledge of our guide, Caroline Barton, the Assistant Collection Manager, only enhanced the experience. We finished the session with lunch at the Museum’s canteen, where we could discuss everything that we had seen during the tour.
Libraries and Archives took over the second part of the day. Antony Loveland, Senior Librarian at the Africa, Oceania and the Americas library and Francesca Hillier, Archivist at Central Archives talked us through the history of the British Museum’s archives and library, bringing up some interesting facts and objects, i.e. a library ticket signed by Carl Marx or rare photo of the Museum’s complex after WW2 bombing. Francesca and Antony were also very kind to give us a tour of the departments and show the fascinating objects they had previously talked about. The current locale of the Central Archives is especially impressive – it is situated in the rotunda in the middle of the Great Court, known as the Reading Room. The interiors have remained the same for decades, being the Museum’s real hidden gem!
Being a recent university graduate, I found that Wednesday especially valuable and interesting in terms of a first-hand encounter with the Museum’s collections. Also, I am thrilled that I could share this experience with museum professionals from all over the world – the ITP Fellows – their knowledgeable and curiosity only boosted the quality of these workshops.