Conor Welham, Digital Collections Trainee on the Transforming People to Transform Museums traineeship programme, talks about the contemporary collecting that’s been going on at Ipswich Museum.
It’s no secret that there has been a devastating and world-changing pandemic that has been affecting us all, and it’s no different for the museum sector. Before starting as a digital collections trainee at Ipswich Museums, I had a preconception that the staff walk around the museum grounds and talk about the collections to curious visitors, I soon found out that there is a whole world behind the scenes.
As a consequence of our museum being closed, there was a build-up of un-accessioned donations. So, when we were finally allowed back into work, we were greeted with an avalanche of objects within the office.
The first step to tackling this task is to create a plan, so Thursdays became our ‘Social History Backlog’ day. This day entailed me, Eleanor Root and Laurie Straiton going through the objects and trying to recall how they found their way into the museum, this is where an object entry form is important. Some of the objects were newer donations and we used the paperwork to create records. Others were untraced finds meaning that we had limited information about their provenance. However, this did create an interesting task of identifying the object and finding out its history, which can reveal some really fascinating things, a favourite of mine being the Giles comics
Once we have an idea of what the object is and how we obtained it, we started the process of marking the object. Once accessioned, I learned how to safely mark objects and, the importance of an eraser when you write down the wrong number! Finally, once an object is marked, I take photographs, which, along with information about the object’s history, I add to our database.
During our last Thursday session, we accessioned some Covid-19 related objects, such as a rainbow collage and NHS scrubs, which were very poignant. It was essential to bring these objects into our collection due to how life changing Covid has been and showcasing all the essential workers keeping everyone safe as possible, and everyone coming together and using the rainbow as a symbol of hope. I feel it’s important to share these stories, especially those that happened during the pandemic such as the Black Lives Matter movement, so we can share and educate what it was like back during this time, and that’s what museums do perfectly.
Our Covid-19 collection will shortly be available to search on our collection’s website, which you can access here – http://www.cimuseums.org.uk/collections/