Breaking into the Heritage Sector …..

The Heritage sector is a tricky one to break into, but word is, experience is key to having any chance of making it in; and luckily Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery (and it’s gracious staff) have allowed me to get some! The first task I was allotted was to help build the Museums digital catalogue. Think of the massive, dimly lit warehouse, stacked high with history’s secrets, at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, scale it down a bit and you have the basement of the Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery. It was here that I began.  

Given a camera to photograph the pieces, a telescopic stand to steady it with and tables to note the pieces particulars on and the Weights and Measures extricated from their shelf the process started. Working through the boxes I took care to note descriptions of each item, taking photos of the item against a measuring device to properly show the items scale. Turning up all sorts of curiosities, from broken boxes full of tiny weights to pint measurements from the 16oo’s, this process was concluded in a couple of sessions, revealing a problem…..

Each item has (or should have) a unique acquisition number, a number that an item is allotted when accepted into the Museum’s collection. However, amongst the Weights and Measures, around 60% of the items had the same number! Was there something deeper to this? Possible theories filling my head (almost all involving the Catholic Church covering something up) the acquisition records (large leather-bound tomes in which the items were recorded when they were accepted into the Museum’s collection) were exhumed from their fire-proof cupboard; the correct annual record was found and then the right number was located within it. Breaking the mystery revealed the sadly conspiracy free truth of the matter, a large collection of items from Fownes Glove Factory had been entered at the same time, all as one object!

Setting this issue right was relatively easy, just requiring a couple of hours and my i-pod. Unique numbers for all the items were created by adapting their common one, and then with these new numbers were entered into Adlib, the digital cataloguing system, together with their Weights and Measures counterparts.

This blog entry was written by Oliver Carey. He graduated in Classical Studies from the University of Exeter in July 2010 where he was nominated for a student Guardian Media award for his writing in the Campus Paper. In January 2011 he featured on the cover of ‘i’ and has been published in ‘Total Film’.


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