I currently work with the Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander collection, which includes approximately 1500 objects such as weapons, tools, basketry and ornaments. My main job is to make the Vernon records as complete and accurate as possible. I compare each object's original paper records (written when the object first entered the Museum) to the information that has already been digitised. Sometimes I find information was not properly transferred to Vernon so I update as needed. Alongside checking the records, I physically check the objects. The Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander collection is currently stored back-of-house, so I must retrieve each object and check it matches the description in Vernon. Often these descriptions consist of little more detail than 'stone axe' or 'boomerang', so I add more detail such as construction method, materials used and decorative features. I also measure the object’s dimensions. As I finish with each object I do a Vernon inventory of its physical location on the shelf. This is important because previously some objects were stored without their locations being documented correctly, making them difficult to find.
Why do we digitise our records when we already have them on paper? Firstly, digital records are not vulnerable to deterioration and loss in the same way physical ones are. But secondly, digitisation helps museum staff immensely with our daily work. It lets us gain a big-picture view of our collections. It makes object information easier to search, collate, update, and add to when new information comes to light. It also helps us engage with source communities. For example, imagine if members of an Aboriginal Australian or Torres Strait Islander community contacted Auckland Museum to ask about objects from their community. We could search Vernon to quickly find all the records that are tagged as being from that locality or community. Also very importantly, Vernon feeds into Collections Online, where anyone in the world can search for objects at Auckland Museum. Many of our Collections Online records now also have high-quality photographs of the objects, taken by our talented team of photographers. It must be noted that some object information or images cannot be fully shared online due to cultural sensitivities, however Auckland Museum is always working to make our collections available online where possible and appropriate.
Plaque, 1992.128, 54090, Cultural Permissions Apply