v1

Prima Facie: Displays, Exhibits and Exhibitions

So far, we’ve talked about ethics, collectionsinventories/documentation and care/preservation.


Display, Exhibits and Exhibitions

Types of displays; The object: interpretation within the exhibition context; Exhibition management in relation to other museum activities; Design: the basic planning and designing process; Creating the planning brief; Developing the exhibition; Production and materials; Completing the exhibition; Evaluating the finished exhibition

George: I think this part is one of my favourite things about The Small Museum Version One. The space and the displays we made were unexpectedly central to the V1 project. In fact, the furniture we found in the room when we first entered literally became the museum, and the room’s walls became our exhibition.

Here’s what it looked like when we’d just arrived:

Untitled

Visitor and volunteer, Henry Cooke, reflected that “the museum is a product of its context,” and really was. Ninety percent of what we produced was tightly bound to the space we found ourselves in.

Materials / Aesthetic

It’s important to say up front that the residency was quite last minute, but I think that’s what gave it such a lightweight feel. On the way out on Day 1, I grabbed some semi-random stationery stuff from my place: sharpies, masking tape, brown paper, pink wrapping paper, blue painters’ tape, scissors… stuff like that. Harriet and Tom also brought a fun box of other materials (cupcake cups, crepe paper, big fat hot pink paint pen things which were awesome). I’d also purchased a printer and a projector just in case we needed them in the space. The printer was useful. The projector was Very Cheap, so a bit crap, but, the displays we used it for (Nandi and Hoa) benefited, I think, from having some blatant background/context in situ.

Here’s what the entry area looked like on day one, as we covered up some of the existing signage:

Untitled

The mixture of the brown paper and tape and sharpies made the thing feel like it was rough and in progress, and I think visitors responded very well to that. It was easy to work with too, as producers of our daily exhibits. We were working in public, and doing daily exhibits, so needed flexible materials.

Dynamic Design

We developed our ritual very quickly. It was centered around a table that was 50cm wide and about 1.5m long, which we started referring to as The Museum. Each day, we’d remove our previous day’s work, hang that on the wall, and then recover the Museum with a fresh sheet of brown paper. Here’s what it looked like:

The Small Museum Version OneUntitled
The Small Museum Version One
The Small Museum Version OneUntitled

And here are the day exhibits we hung each day… they proved to be an excellent guide for visitors – we’d just pull the door out the way, and then use the panels to explain what the hell we were doing. A chronological sequence seems clear, mostly.

Day 5 hung

We also kept a visible visitor log at the front door, using a small pink dot to indicate repeat visits. A couple of museum professionals who visited us thought that visible counter was great. (So did we, because now we know we had 159 visitors! But, more on visitors later.)

Untitled

Interpretation Within the Exhibition

As we poked at in the Ethics post, a few of our exhibits were critiques of the British Museum’s acquisition history. The Goddess Hathor piece in particular highlighted Henry Salt, British Consul General to Egypt, and how many objects he brought to London from ancient Egypt (and indeed sold at auction for personal gain). Visitors could talk directly to us, so there wasn’t actually much interpretive material available that wasn’t either the displays themselves, or what we said about them. It was interesting to prime the conversation about our work with what we were trying to represent — an object’s journey to the British Museum collection — and hear what people thought. There were literally whispers and quips like “you could empty every museum” on similar grounds.

Evaluation

It’s taking me a while to write up all these entries — but I’ll get there. I guess it’s my and Harriet’s own personal evaluation on what happened in V1. But — and we’ll write on visitors next — we asked lots of people to sign the visitor’s book when they came. As far as I’m concerned, their feedback is all we need. People loved it!

For thesmallmuseum.org write up. These are notes in our Visitors Book.

Capturing The Space

In a mad fit of genius, Tom did a 3D capture of the museum space itself towards the end of the residency. I’m so pleased to have this! Look how cool it is! (Click through for an autoplay loop tour of the space.)

3d-room-render2

Standard
v1

Prima Facie: Care and Preservation of Collections

So far, we’ve talked about ethics, collections and inventories and documentation.


Care and preservation of collections

Deciding priorities and assessing risks; Reducing future loss and damage in 100 years or more; Classifying risks to collections; The Nine Agents of Deterioration; The collection preservation cycle: Step 1: Check the basics – Step 2: Survey the risks – Step 3: Plan improvements to collection risk management; Examples of specific risk assessments and individual solutions; Integrated risk management of pests (IPM); Integrated, sustainable risk management of lighting, pollutants, temperature, and humidity; Museum lighting guidelines; Museum temperature and humidity guidelines; Museum pollutant guidelines; Integrating management of all four agents.

George: This is the chapter I probably have the least to say about. Given that V1 of the museum was pretty rough and ready and lasted for just 10 days, we — I — didn’t think too much about rigorous care of the collection. We had very little control of the environment itself, apart from a key to the door, access to the light switches, and our ability to open the window a crack. The lighting wasn’t focussed in any way, and we turned it off for our Hoa Hakanana’i and Nandi Bull displays so we could project movies into the cramped corner of the room (to great effect!). If anything, the collection is designed to be touched, which creates a wholly different set of questions about care and preservation (and patina), I think.

Designed to be Touched

We had the idea to photograph each object each day because it was obvious they’d probably get a bit grubby over the course of V1, since the objects were out on the museum “surface” and there to be touched. Indeed, some of the displays required that visitors touch the objects, like how lifting Nandi off the museum surface revealed the story we made about contrast between real life and museum life.

I also happen to like the light, janky, slightly cheap-feeling touch of the simplest 3D print format. The objects have no heft, and are all the same colour. To me, this potentially makes them more approachable, and touchable. The fact that they are such obvious facsimiles.

Repairs to Delicate Things

The Tara print was really fragile. She was the smallest, and her lovely hand gestures and her plinth were so delicate that she actually broke under pressure. Tom did a great job of restoring her though. With super glue and a steady hand.

Rainy Afternoons

Just to say that on the day we left Somerset House, there was a gentle rain falling, so as we made our way to the taxi with all the stuff, the top of the box V1 got a tiny bit wet so now you see the echoes of a bit of rain there. The objects themselves would be resilient outside in rain. To a point, at least.

The Nine Ten Agents of Deterioriation

Here is the curious list of these nasty “agents” of deterioration, borrowed from the Historic Royal Palaces conservation team. Curious to play with these.

Preventing harm

As the name suggests, our conservators’ aim is to prevent any harm coming to the palaces’ objects by taking precautions against damage. These are widely known as the ‘agents of decay’ and commonly include:

  • Direct physical forces
  • Theft and vandalism
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Pests
  • Contaminants such as dust
  • Radiation (light)
  • Incorrect temperature
  • Incorrect relative humidity
  • Disassociation

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

Now, the collection of objects and the donation and the bequest are stored in my home. The museum in a box is in a round box I got some Royal Doulton mugs in, and the various displays are rolled up in an extra layer of brown paper. We also wrapped up the various bits of project documentation in an envelope made out of white paper. We thought a bit about what to remove or keep from the various bits of paper. We decided to keep the blue painters’ tape around, and indeed to consider adding the leftover tape to whatever archive we think about keeping, since that was such a key element to the look and feel of the thing. It’s roughly kept, but the house is warm and dry.

I have been taking a couple of the objects more far and wide to continue the conversation about the Museum in a Box project. In particular, Goddess Hathor and the Nandi Bull have been traveling a bit, riding in my backpack. The Goddess now has a grubby nose, and Nandi has passed through airport security more than once.

Standard
v1

Prima Facie: Inventories and Documentation

So far, we’ve talked about ethics and collections.


Inventories and documentation

Acquisitions, long-term loans and accessioning; Inventory control and cataloguing; Syntax and terminology; Object numbering, labelling and marking; Location and movement control; Backlog accessioning, inventory control and cataloguing; Manual and computer-based cataloguing and retrieval; Images; Web access to the information about the collection; Staff and Financial Resources; Recommended cataloguing fields.

George: Let me start by saying that, even with just 10 objects in the collection, I was already nearly overwhelmed by the prospect of maintaining inventory and docs. But, importantly, my primary goal for the entire exercise was to generate content about it, the exercise itself.

WordPress pages = object records

As I noted in Gathering Digital Content for the Archive, one of the research ideas we’re working on is making digital content, news and opinions about museum objects part of their official records. Our idea with the WordPress pages for each object was to give each object a home online, and then to add information and content to that page as we found it. We built out the initial views for each object from British Museum tombstone records, and other information uncovered on the highlight pages there. Harriet added Google maps where we could see a location, and images of the objects.

It was also good to use WordPress, I think, because we just get a whole bunch of web-native features right off the bat. Thirty8 Digital has been doing great museum-y WordPress-y work for ages.

Collecting more data gently about objects

This is an important idea for The Small Museum. How can we use the breadth of web content to our advantage? How does information and knowledge about these things change over time? This is what we’re referring to on the Good, Form & Spectacle homepage when we say “contextual benefits of networked metadata.”

To date, we’ve just added information about what we did with each object in the collection over the course of the residency at Somerset House. I can easily understand how that could become a full time job. I’m also interested in seeing what web scraping technology, RSS and other types of “web listening” could annotate an object’s official record with context from the web. All sorts of questions there.

This kind of idea is a bit different from tools like Archive-IT, from the Internet Archive. That’s designed to archive individual websites to see how they change over time. I’m imagining something that’s at the same time more fine-grained, but also with a broader reach. Something like a slurper that’s like Google News for each object.

As an example, it seems like the British Museum should be collecting the sort of content and opinion that’s being written about the Parthenon Marbles on The Guardian. Don’t you think?

Github, google doc

I’ve been thinking about the idea of a “minimum viable record” since I led the Open Library project at the Internet Archive.

The basic step is to collect as many identifiers about an object as you can. Once you have those stored in a giant array, you can use them to do lookups into their host services. It’s a giant headache to get two (let alone fifty) slightly different semantic systems to play nice, so I thought of this as a way to avoid that issue. (There’s still the challenge of recognizing an object across two systems though, to be sure. Even the distinction between vernacular, official and colloquial gets tricksy with primary/original objects, like Parthenon Marbles vs Elgin Marbles.)

You can see the early seeds of this minimum viable record in the columns we chose for the data, where we’re immediately trying to create connections from our records into BM, Wikipedia, and the 3D model repository, My Mini Factory:

Object Name, MIAB_ID, MIAB_URL, BM Explore URL, BM Collection URL, BM Open Data URL, Wikipedia, MyMiniFactory ID, Country of Origin, Place Found, Period, Date, Measurements, Material, Notes

I was also encouraged to see that Getty released its database of some 650,000 artists names onto the web the other day, available as Linked Open Data under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0. This is just good. It would be nice to be able to annotate that with IDs and URLs and URIs that refer to the same people. I’m also not the only person thinking about the need for radical simplification.

Labels

Harriet made some really handy labels for each object. They were handy because they contained basic metadata about their object, but could also be easily moved and positioned around the museum space. Here’s one for Goddess Hathor:

Day 6 Object of Focus
The Small Museum Version One The Small Museum Version One

They were simple and manoeuvrable.

Donation! Bequest!

We were all a bit surprised and excited when Dr. James Lattin brought us one of his own Museums in a Box – our first donation! The only inventory we’ve done so far of this event (and the new object) is the blog post I just linked to, a tweet or two, and another mention right here. This is exactly the sort of mention or tendril about an object it would be good to collect methodically.

Our first bequest was also utterly charming, thanks to its creators, Arthur and Henry Maxwell, aged four and two.

File 31-03-2015 10 36 13

Both of these events made me ever so slightly nervous that we’d quickly become a Museum of Museums in Boxes. Not the end of the world, but, I suspect that’s how a lot of small museums grow quickly.

There’s also a digital element to acquisitions here, about digital rights management. Acquiring something new is a great opportunity to clarify how a digital surrogate of an object may be used. Of course, I’m all talk, because I completely failed to do that in the course of these two events.

Standard
v1

Prima Facie: Collections

So far, we’ve talked about ethics.


Collections management

Developing a collections management policy; Acquisition and accessioning; Deaccessioning and disposals; Numbering and marking of objects in the collection; Loans condition reports; Collections storage; Handling and moving collections; Photography; Insurance; Public access to collections; Display and exhibition galleries and rooms; Research of collections.

Harriet: Collections data has always struck me as hugely annoyingly inconsistent. How is it so hard to agree some basic principles and everyone work to them? Trying to find a specific British Museum object in the collections database has always flummoxed me. I never quite know which of the various numbering systems I should be using. Though I love that one of the systems is awesomely titled the ‘Big’ number. This helpful tip for collections online says it all really: The user may have to try several punctuation alternatives … it may be in a non standard format such as dashes rather than commas and full-stops or a zero appended to a number.

How can it be so hard?

Oh, turns out that it is really hard.

We had just 10 objects in The Small Museum Version 1. We put them in a spreadsheet and added the basics (name, place, date). Turns out those aren’t so basic after all. I’m still not sure our names are particularly consistent, we have Goddess Hathor, Buddhist goddess Tara, and Figure of Xochipilli. Should we have used Hathor, Tara, Xochipilli? And places and dates come with their own issues (more on that with the Inventories chapter). Luckily we have a straightforward 8-digit unique (big?) number…for now.

The web pages were another hub of information, I admit I was quite nerdy about these – the inner content producer/editor came out – but it was difficult to maintain consistency across just 10 objects. We didn’t have the same information for each and invariably some had more interesting acquisition stories and others had more interesting contextual stories. In the end I learnt to let go a little!

And it’s just struck me that we had two acquisitions/gifts/bequests. One from Dr James Lattin and one from Arthur and Henry. While we documented these on the blog, they haven’t been formally added to the register.

I think we had (and still have) good intentions about our data management – but it’s harder than I thought.

According to the handbook ‘…the most important museum collections document is the Collections Management Policy’. We haven’t got one of these. In fact the objects we 3D printed were those for which we had relevant files. A number of visitors asked ‘why did you select these objects?’ and that was a tricky one to answer. Perhaps we should get that policy document underway.

George: We were truly liberated by two things: 1) having a very small collection of ten objects, and 2) having those objects be facsimiles of existing things from another institution. The small collection let us not be distracted by having to deal with a giant collections management issue right off the bat. Having a starting position of 200,000 archaeological artifacts, as suggested by Ed Rodley in his 2012 Making a museum from scratch: Part One blogpost just immediately puts you underwater, and perhaps unable to consider questions other than what to do with those dusty, unclassified objects. Maybe, by flattening or simplifying that issue, but still having some objects, you can find a space to think about things other than the sheer weight of your collection. Is that crazy?!?

That said, we did still have a small collection to manage. We did some simple things to get started:

  • Made a simple spreadsheet to list each object
  • Gave each object a unique ID
  • Added links to various BM collection data sources
  • Made a page on the web for each object
  • Added imagery and narrative about each object through research of the BM catalogue

Digital Catalogue
The catalogue was very simple. Here are the column headings we selected, with an emphasis on digital descriptions and links into other datasets: Object Name, MIAB_ID, MIAB_URL, BM Explore URL, BM Collection URL, BM Open Data URL, Wikipedia, MyMiniFactory ID, Country of Origin, Place Found, Period, Date, Measurements, Material, Notes. We published it on Github too, because that’s what you should do.

The crazy part is, we’re already a bit behind, in particular because we had planned to supplement our original pages for each object on WordPress with information and content we made during our residency at Somerset House. You can see we’ve done that for some objects, like the Colossal Foot, but haven’t quite finished yet.  We generated a ton of great content about our daily displays, but it’s now scattered across several services online (Flickr, Twitter etc.) Ideally, each object’s catalogue record should connect to that documentary content too, so people can see the sorts of displays and blog posts we wrote about them. Content is hard to maintain!

Donations / Bequests
We were also absolutely thrilled and surprised to receive two museums in boxes from visitors! The first was a donation, and we decided to make the second one a fun bequest, because it was made by Arthur and Henry Maxwell, two smalls who belong to Harriet, and had made their own museum in a box after visiting. IT WAS ADORABLE, but we haven’t catalogued either of them anywhere yet, except a reference blog post.

Ephemeral Content/Connections
Gathering related digital things is a huge interest of mine. There’s so much the web can say to supplement the classic “tombstone” records that most collections contain. We made a gesture towards this idea with our addition of Wikipedia links in the catalogue, but there’s a LOT been written about each of our ten famous objects. The question begs, whether or not institutions should be starting to collect broader digital metadata and context from the web about their collections. I think the answer is yes, but, it’s bloody hard. Even just representing the residency itself across the various publishing platforms we used to make the thing is difficult to manage, and that’s just for ten things and ten days.

A later approach might be to consider a tool like the Internet Archive’s Archive-IT service, or look into the work of Ilya Kremer‘s pywb, both of which are actively developing around the idea of crawling and indexing specific slices of the web.

Learnings
I know understand why it’s possible and quite common for folks who work in institutions to rarely be certain of the entire contents of their collections. It’s no longer a surprise that some institutions make amazing discoveries within their own collections. (Sandwich Magna Carta, anyone?) I now sympathize with all the archivists I’ve met who apologize for the state of their archive.

Content development and catalogue maintenance are laborious endeavours. You have to be on the ball and proactive, and that’s all there is to it.

Standard
v1

Prima Facie: Ethics

OK, here’s the idea. There are 11 chapters in the UNESCO Running a Museum handbook (and we’ve added a twelfth, Commerce). Harriet and I will be writing on one chapter at once, in the order they’re listed in the handbook. So, to start, we’re writing about ethics. We thought you might enjoy a comparison between our observations, so we’ll combine our reports into a single post for each chapter. A little background about us both, too… George is a web designer essentially, with a penchant for clever, friendly interaction design. I have about 20 years experience making software. Harriet recently left the British Museum after nine years, having made her way into a senior content production role. OK. Here goes.


Professional Code of Ethics Historical background to collecting; The first public museums; Minimum standards & professional ethics; Managing the museum; Making and maintaining collections; Interpreting and furthering knowledge – accessibility; Appreciating and promoting the natural and cultural heritage; Public service and public benefit; Working with communities; Legislation; Professionalism.

George: Let me start by saying I’m not a “museum professional.” I am maybe a bit more like an artist/designer type who’s circling around what museum means, and is indeed liberated in that “amateur” position. That said, I’ve been around museum professionals in all sorts of partnerships and engagements for the last eight years or so, so it’s not as if I’m stumbling in the dark. In fact, the challenge for me will be to try to practice Shoshin, or beginner’s mind; to stay open, eager and to beware preconceptions as I study The Museum.

On that note, it really didn’t take long for me to realize the real power (and potential ethical quandries) of an editorial point of view when describing things for the public. Our collection of ten objects from The British Museum’s collection lent itself easily to making our displays and work be about how those objects came to be in the collection of the museum. From Hoa Hakananai’a’s unearthing to the lonely Nandi Bull, these stories of imperialism and acquisition formed the central theme of Version 1. It opened lots of conversations about repatriation and the nature of collections, to be sure. Personally, I think the BM collection is incredible and stupendous because it’s collected so much, and actually, its biggest acquisition years came well after the peak of the British Empire’s colonial exploration (as shown by adjacent visualization work in another G,F&S project, Two Way Street). Diffusing it back into the world isn’t clearly better, not clearly the right thing to do. It’s amazing simply because of its scale. I think. As one visitor remarked, you could empty every museum. I certainly also felt a keen ethical pinch as visitors asked me and the team our opinions on such a big question.

File 26-03-2015 15 52 41

A Live Experiment
Positioning ourselves as both a small museum and a live experiment seemed very approachable to people. Using “museum” as a descriptor immediately seemed to create certain conditions in people’s minds. But then, to say we’re were making things up, and changing things every day, and taking lots of photos, and talking about the whole shebang in public changed some of those conditions, and favourably too.More than one visitor told us how much they enjoyed being able to talk with us directly, and hear directly from us about what we were doing. You might say that should be in the remit of any and all museum professionals’ work, but as Allegra Burnette just tweeted, Richard Evans says “as you progress in your museum career, the further and further away you get from the visitor.”

Untitled This work of interpretation is fraught with ethical challenges. Boy! In one of our pieces, which we called “Diplomacy,” my not-so-secret motivation was to be intentionally incendiary. It was a day spent thinking about the Goddess Hathor, and we discovered in the object’s description that she’d been acquired from a man called Henry Salt. He was British Consul-General to Egypt in the early 19th Century, and our scant research identified him as, let’s say, a colourful character. We deliberately wrote the phrase “Henry Salt sold 1,659 objects to The British Museum” on the display, even as we knew that Hathor, in particular, was bought via an auction house. Even as we made this display, even just discussing the semantics of bought vs sold and being open and honest about our superficial research into Salt, that openness created an excellent stage for some really interesting conversations about the nature of museums. You can also see — again from Two Way Street’s “acquired from” list — that Henry Salt is hardly the largest “giver of things” to the museum, and the data says that actually 1,679 things were acquired from him. (That was an unintended error by me, that incorrect count.) By highlighting him directly, and constructing a display with a certain feel, we were able to crack open a conversation I don’t think you’d ever hear within the walls of the official institution. (I’m happy to proven wrong on that.)

Working in Public
We documented the work heavily, taking hundreds of photos, writing loads of blog posts and tweets, and talking directly with anyone who entered the room. I wonder if there’s something to that style of approach generally for institutions. It just seems better all round from where I sit to be open and proactive about showing your work. Perhaps there’s something to be learned there from the way that software folks work these days. Prototyping, deploying basic minimum viable things, writing up your process, sharing code and all that has helped to generate and now facilitate a wholly new way of working. There are some museums now talking about working with an Agile mentality — where Agile is a style of software project management — so I suppose that’s good.

I’m wondering too if there’s actually an ethical angle to this; to work in public and be explicit about things like acquisition and deaccession and funding and conservation and stuff like that. Every museum has skeletons in its closet though, so that’s a tough one. To sum up my feelings on ethics, I don’t think it’s actually that appropriate to subject our short residency/art project to the same level of scrutiny that a Proper Museum should be. As you’ll read in the next chapter, we were absolutely in a liberated position because our collection was so small and actually copies of official things. If anything, we mostly probed at the sorts of ethical things that the handbook suggests every museum should be scrutinized about, perhaps in the context of some kind of post-imperial environment we now find ourselves in.

Harriet: When I worked with the British Museum collection as my day job, I was always acutely aware of my responsibility to the original cultures from which the objects came. I wanted to be sensitive and considered in my treatment of images of the objects and in my language when talking about them. I was also aware of my responsibility to the institution – not to bring it in for any flack. For obvious reasons all text and crops of images for publication would go through multiple sign off procedures. Kind of understandable, but kind of frustrating. There are some huge ethical questions about the way in which a lot of the objects came into the collection. It was hard work avoiding them.

So when I was thinking about the ethics of The Small Museum collection, my first thought was “phew”. I don’t think we had any ethical dilemmas about how we’d acquired our collection – all our objects were 3D prints. 

No dodgy diplomats or controversial acquisitions were involved.

We didn’t have particularly sensitive objects, they weren’t human remains, we wouldn’t be facing requests for repatriation of cultural property and there were no conflicts of interests with (non-existent) sponsors or donors.

One paragraph did however pop out: “Museums should respect the integrity of the original when replicas, reproductions, or copies of items from the collection are made or used in display. All such copies should be clearly labelled and permanently marked as facsimiles.”

All the objects in our display were copies. I guess we thought that was super obvious, so we didn’t label them as such. I hope none of our visitors felt duped.

We chose to bring some of the ethical questions about acquisition squarely into focus through our displays. This was extremely liberating for me! In putting some of our 3D objects back into something closer to their original context, I felt we were able to  pay respect to the original cultures from which the objects came. We played Hoa the ambient background noise (the waves off Easter Island) he would have originally heard. I particularly liked putting Nandi Bull back in context, in the Museum he’s in such an austere setting, cold and lifeless. It felt right to put him back in a vibrant setting of noise and colour and people.

Don’t get me wrong, I do recognise the dilemma – we wouldn’t have had these objects to 3D print from if the Museum hadn’t acquired them.

On a more specific note, the handbook mentions the need for accessibility in this chapter. We adopted a Show Everything approach, published the collections database on github and did all our prototyping in public. So I think we did a pretty good job on that. As for the accessibility of our display, we found that we hadn’t considered all of our potential visitors, but I think this should be covered in another post ‘Caring for the visitor’.

Standard
v1

Prima Facie Reportage

As we noted back in January in our What Is It A Museum Of? post, we’re aligning our thinking and progress with the UNESCO Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook. We thought, therefore, that the structure in that document might be useful to borrow for our write-up of the fabulous 10 days of The Small Museum Version 1.

Both Harriet and I will be reflecting on our residency along those lines, so please stay tuned for further updates. In the meantime, here’s the general structure of that handbook so you can see the sorts of things we’re thinking through. Isn’t it interesting that collections management is only a small piece of what museums are?


Professional Code of Ethics

Historical background to collecting; The first public museums; Minimum standards & professional ethics; Managing the museum; Making and maintaining collections; Interpreting and furthering knowledge – accessibility; Appreciating and promoting the natural and cultural heritage; Public service and public benefit; Working with communities; Legislation; Professionalism.

Collections management

Developing a collections management policy; Acquisition and accessioning; Deaccessioning and disposals; Numbering and marking of objects in the collection; Loans condition reports; Collections storage; Handling and moving collections; Photography; Insurance; Public access to collections; Display and exhibition galleries and rooms; Research of collections.

Inventories and documentation

Acquisitions, long-term loans and accessioning; Inventory control and cataloguing; Syntax and terminology; Object numbering, labelling and marking; Location and movement control; Backlog accessioning, inventory control and cataloguing; Manual and computer-based cataloguing and retrieval; Images; Web access to the information about the collection; Staff and Financial Resources; Recommended cataloguing fields.

Care and preservation of collections

Deciding priorities and assessing risks; Reducing future loss and damage in 100 years or more; Classifying risks to collections; The Nine Agents of Deterioration; The collection preservation cycle: Step 1: Check the basics – Step 2: Survey the risks – Step 3: Plan improvements to collection risk management; Examples of specific risk assessments and individual solutions; Integrated risk management of pests (IPM); Integrated, sustainable risk management of lighting, pollutants, temperature, and humidity; Museum lighting guidelines; Museum temperature and humidity guidelines; Museum pollutant guidelines; Integrating management of all four agents.

Display, exhibits and exhibitions

Types of displays; The object: interpretation within the exhibition context; Exhibition management in relation to other museum activities; Design: the basic planning and designing process; Creating the planning brief; Developing the exhibition; Production and materials; Completing the exhibition; Evaluating the finished exhibition

Caring for the visitor

The benefits for museums?; What are the underpinning principles for providing quality visitor services; Some key issues to consider in developing a visitor services policy statement; Defining and understanding the visitor; Types of visitors and their needs; Planning and managing visitor services; Specific areas for attention; Checklist from the visitors’ point of view.

Education in the context of Museum function

Collections and education; Developing and managing museum education; Museum education and the community; Designing educational programs: the basic principles; Choice of teaching and learning methods in museum education; Museum publications; Types of didactic material commonly used in museums; Extramural activities; Informal education.

Museum management

Management structure; Teamwork; Leadership styles of directors and other senior staff; Building a mission statement; Financial management; Six rules for planning a budget; Museum ethics and management; The planning process; Issues to be considered; Evaluation; SWOT analysis.

Managing people

Understanding personnel management; The main categories of museum work and museum employees; Personnel information, involvement and fairness; Recruiting and retaining high quality staff; Recruitment and promotion selection methods and approaches; Minimum requirements for a statement or contract of the terms of employment; Staff management, training and professional development; Disciplinary and grievance procedures; Health and safety at work; How to assess risks in the workplace: five steps in risk assessment.

Marketing

Introduction to marketing; The current orientation of museums in relation to marketing theory and practice; Product, price, promotion, place; Strategic market planning; Mission and vision; Internal and external factors; Target groups; Promotion; Advertising; Public relations; Building a museum “brand”.

Security

Who is responsible for security policy and its enforcement?; Risk analysis and the security plan; Implementing the strategic plan for museum protection; Measures to ensure security in display and exhibition rooms; Intruder Detection System (IDS); Access Control System (ACS); Closed Circuit Television (CCTV); Automatic fire detection and alarm system (FAS); The Emergency Plan.

Commerce

TBD 🙂


The Version 1 experiment certainly didn’t cover each and every aspect of this handbook’s suggestions, but we did touch some of them, even in the 10 days. We’re going to write a bit about each chapter and how it manifested during the experiment. In some ways, the residency was something of an ersatz museum, and frankly, that’s interesting in itself!

Standard
somerset house, v1

Gathering Digital Content for the V1 Archive

One of the themes we’re researching is about collecting multiple points of view about museum objects (and making those perspectives part of the Official Record). Now that it’s the final day of our residency, we’re thinking about how to capture this fun and good experience.

One of our main goals was to try to generate lots of content, which I think we’ve done well. It just dawned on me too, though, that we’ve also put that content in all kinds of places across the web: various Twitter accounts, other people’s tweets, Dropbox, this WordPress blog, Flickr, the company blog, etc etc. Part of our archiving work should be gathering stuff from all over.

Here’s a quick list. I’m sure there’ll be more.

We also wrapped up everything into a paper-based archive yesterday too. We thought to add the unused roll of blue tape to the archive, since it made up such a lot of the aesthetic of the displays.

If you, or someone you know, popped any content online about Version One, please consider adding a link to it in the comments.

Standard