Tamsin Falconer completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies through Massey University in October 2008. As part of the Museum Graduate Internship Programme (MGIP) she was offered a Museum Intern position at Akaroa Museum. Her project at Akaroa Museum focuses on readying the collection for its move into a new collection storage facility, which will be built in 2009.
This is Tamsin’s first six weeks …
I find out what I am to do. Go through everything in the large storeroom, check numbers against the card catalogue and accession records, and enter the details into Past Perfect. Also figure out how to move it all into temporary storage while the new collection storage area is built. Should be fine, I can do this!
I join the local touch rugby competition and meet a whole lot of people I don’t see in the museum.
I visit the Christchurch Art Gallery and see a lot that Akaroa Museum doesn’t have – archival packing materials, specialist staff, active climate control and, most of all, space. It brings home what a difference the new storage area will make.
I start finding some practical challenges: do pairs of objects get one number or two? How do you classify an object when you don’t know what it is? How can I photograph a 2m long object, when the storeroom doesn’t have enough room to swing a cat?
I notice that the fossils in the museum shop are really popular. They seem to be the sort of thing that people expect to see there, even though there are none on display in the museum.
The museum hosts the Friends’ pre-Christmas function – fresh flowers, drinks, nibbles, and a DVD on lighthouses – all in the main gallery. The demographic is retired, but energetic.
I look harder at the contents of the storeroom. It’s not all furniture and colonial sewing machines. In order to clear it, other things, like spare light fittings and tools and display materials, will have to be shifted too. I suspect that it represents years of history, but I’m not sure whose toes I will be standing on if I suggest a big biff. Consequently, the Director and I take only a few things to the local transfer station.
I spend a little time on the front desk where I learn that the regular staff must be commonly doing five things at once (including being endlessly helpful).
My parents and some friends come to visit over Christmas. I show them around the museum, realising that I haven’t looked around carefully myself. They spend hours there, but comment that they found some parts hard to find. It makes me think about how reliant first time visitors are on obvious signage.
Once again, I get bowled over by our one-day-a-week volunteer Mary. She has so much energy and enthusiasm, I struggle to keep up, but we have some good laughs learning about the names for ecclesiastical vestments, determining that we have a surplice and a robe. The dictionary and Chennall’s nomenclature get good use, but we also consult other staff, Wikipedia, and Google. I also consult one of the Friends (a retired carpenter) about the names of some woodworking tools.
I’m trying to complete my report on the temporary storage. I spend ages toying with whether we can fit everything into one container, or whether we really need two. The budget implications are significant, but then so are the implications of cramming stuff into a too-small space.
I manage to ‘break’ Past Perfect, and by the end of the day it won’t even open up without an error message. Fortunately the online help works overnight (time difference), and I have a series of helpful suggestions by the next morning.
At the end of the week, it’s back north to my regular job. I’ll be back for another six weeks in late March, by which time I’m promised the tourist season will have dissipated somewhat.