Us a few years ago: Woo hoo! We have over a 1000 people on our newsletter list
Boss a few years ago: Great! Now, how do we get that to over 10,000? By the end of the year?
Us: Uh, that’s a big ask actually. A list like this is best when you have engaged users, rather than a lot of people who sign up for a competition entry and then unsubscribe. We can make a plan to get 10,000 on the email list, but it may not happen in a year, and may not get the engagement this list is useful for.
Boss: Make that plan and don’t do yourselves down! You can do it!
Over the past few days I have had adventures in archive documentation... It's worth knowing that most of our archive documentation/database is kept in a series of excel sheets, rather than any sort of database or archiving software.
Excel can be a very effective tool, but in the same way that using a loaded gun as a paperweight is an effective tool - fine until someone does something uneducated, hurried, or plain daft with it.
Archive Adventures 1.
N/A is never something one should be allowed put into the “Date” entry for an archived item.
The date is always applicable, even if only an estimate.
Archive Adventures 2.
Archive Adventures continue… In this Excel document, some boxes are formatted as text, some are formatted as numbers.
So when you try to sort data into date order, it effectively creates two lists, one above the other, one with the text dates in alphabetical order, one with the numerical dates in numerical order.
If you will insist that Excel is fit for purpose, at least be consistent with it?
Archive Adventures 3.
Six identical items, split into two separate listings.
One listing has a manufacturing date.
The other listing says manufacturing date is TBC.
The items were all manufactured at the same time.
Methinks someone “updated” the archive by adding three new items, without first checking if there was an existing listing to just expand.
Archive Adventures 4.
The date is always applicable, even if only an estimate.
"Old" is slightly better than N/A, but very only slightly just better.
Archives are kept for a reason, accompanying documentation is created for a reason. The database documents what you have, how many you have, if there are restrictions on use, where to find things... It can also help you understand what you don't have, and any gaps in the collection it would be appropriate to fill.
A sloppy archive and database documentation are almost more of an impediment than the "room full of stuff, and one person knows how it works" school of archiving. I'm nigh on wishing we were back in those days, where a well timed ask for a favour got results faster than an argument with Excel.
"It's NOT a two tripods stood next to a Christmas tree in a cabinet. It's a quick sketch of what a new display could look like, with a stick man and woman stood next to it for reference. I admit, he does look like he has three legs, and that triangular...
No. Fine! If you think this looks like two tripods stood next to a Christmas tree in a cabinet. Our next display is solved. You can install that for the next exhibition."
To be fair, what was drawn to illustrate the point being made about exhibition design did look like two tripods stood next to a cabinet with a Christmas tree in it.
It was all in good humour , and taken as such!
Welcome to front of house work with mandatory uniform selected for you by people who don't have to wear it themselves.
A seperate issue was when new shirts were introduced.
White, sort of like school uniform, and obligating the female staff to almost always wear a jumper over, or vest under their shirt, or have their bra visible through the material.
Trying to source some sets of items in the archive, and this quote (including what's in the brackets) has happened in an email chain about searching the database:
"... they may also (amusingly) not be logged as sets, but be in there under a catchall name omitting to say they are sets, and whatever date.
*High five to all you archivists out there, I expect you are currently having your own wry smile in agreement at this! *
I am a bit in love with what is happening over in Derby right now.
The Silk Mill was Derby's Industrial Museum, and it's undergoing a massive change into a Museum of Making. And as it does so, it is showing other institutions how the modern museum can nail it when it comes to community engagement and buy in from day one, and how splendidly collaborative and open the process can be.
There is a lot I could say about this, but their most recent tumblr post (British museums, more of you should be on there please, it's a great social platform for you) bought up something I really want to highlight.
The post is here. It discusses how: "unlike the traditional approach to a museum revamp, led and directed solely by curators, management teams and Board members, we have taken a wholly different approach."
I was recently involved in a discussion about "Things no one told you before you started working in a museum”.
It made me wonder: What would I tell myself if I could go back?
I wouldn't want to put the younger me off working in museums, galleries or heritage sites, but perhaps guide them a bit in what to expect. The ten points here may not be the most vital and key things to know, but they are things I wish I'd been prepared for!
Earlier today I crowed that we’d successfully warped time and space in a new exhibition. (see here)
Then this afternoon our cabinet company emailed with a design suggestion for a new cabinet.
To display something 600 x 600 x 600mm they suggested a 700 x700mm square cabinet, with sliding glass doors.
Just envisage that a second.
Sliding glass doors?
We’re good, but we’re not able to (safely) fit something 600 x 600 x 600mm through a c. 350mm gap!
Exhibition Designer: So, if we reorganize the room's contents, and remove a cabinet, we somehow have more shelf space....
Curator: Have we broken time and space?
Exhibition Designer: Hurrah for us?
Yup, still not sure how removing an entire display cabinet and distributing it's contents has given us a bit of space to spare.
Webcomic and occasional blog about the heritage sector.
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