When you visit the Museum and see objects in cases, it's easy to gloss over the vast amounts of work that goes into making our displays look effortless. In this blog Sarndra Lees, Collection Manager, History, takes you step-by-step through the elaborate, sometimes tedious, always crucial processes required to ensure that the priceless objects in the Museum's care are looked after for generations to come.
Being faced with many hundreds of objects for processing into a museum collection can be quite daunting! The most important thing is to plan any project out long in advance of commencing, from the resources required to complete the task through to placement of the objects into their permanent storage. The steps I use to process acquisitions for the History collection were, for the most part, used as the framework for the 21st Battalion Association collection.
Applying for, and successfully securing, financial support through the Lottery Environment and Heritage Fund supplemented the purchase of resources required for packing and storage of the objects, as well as the time of two collection technicians, Elle Keen and Callan Bird, to make sure we could process the objects within a six-month timeframe. As Collection Manager in our History department, I project-managed the team and oversaw the process from start to finish.
1 Manu Tāiko is a bird that was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered on the Chatham Islands in 1978, and is now part of a successful breeding programme. It is a sentry bird that watches over the forest, sending signals if anyone approaches. This Māori whakatauki and proverb explains it well:
E rere taku manu, taku manu tāiko – hokahoka ake, topatopa atu – e rere, e rere
Fly my friendly guardian bird, your eagle eye over the land, bringing peace to all
The name acknowledges the Museum's responsibility to be a good kaitiaki for the people who work at and visit the centre, and most importantly, it acknowledges the care and respect that will be given to the objects residing there.
2 The Getty Institute; "Preventive Conservation"; Newsletter 7.1 Winter 1992; accessed 27 May 2020
Photographs by Collection Manager, History – Sarndra Lees