Over the last nine months I have done many things that makes the answer to the question ‘how was work today?’ sound very interesting. I have fork-lifted a mammoth tusk. I have frozen an Anglo Saxon manikin. I have cleaned a Bishop’s Throne and written a trail about dragons.
The weird and wonderful has become the everyday so perhaps I should spell out what I do here over in the Norfolk Collections Centre and why I think it is important. My job title is Collections Management trainee, and although you may think that it’s not hard to manage a load of inanimate objects, it is harder than it sounds.
The weird and wonderful normally appears at the beginning of the week when reaching up and lifting down some of the mystery pallets off the racking. In fact that is the most exciting time, when we are about to look at something new and are unsure of what we may find.
So far some of the delights have been our saint statues from various Norwich churches. We also have a Bishop’s Throne from Norwich Cathedral, we have beadle staffs from the processions of Norwich mayors, fire places, cookers, mangles, swords, various pieces of furniture, medieval chests and ‘Spike’ our funeral monument.
So we have our objects down from the racking, what is there to do next? Well we do a thorough check of each object, have a look at its unique number and see what sort of condition it is in. We then have a look at its record on our database. We will add detail to that record to make sure that it has a correct location and that we document any work we do on it such as cleaning. Perhaps most important though is taking a photo and adding that to the record, so if someone searches for it they know exactly what it looks like without having to forklift it down again.
Going through this process also means me and my colleague Sophie Towne get an in-depth knowledge of the objects we work on. What they are, where they have come from and what they might have been used for.
We then re-pack the objects so that they are nice and safe to go back up onto the racking. Now why do we do all of this? The reason is simple: access.
With every object we look at, clean, photograph and update on the database, our knowledge improves. This means we can then pass that knowledge onto the people who are interested, our visitors. The people who truly own the collection.
So far during this project we have been open on two event days at Gressenhall for tours of the store, which have been very popular. We have also run activities over October half-term, giving a new audience the chance to explore what we have behind the scenes. We are also currently planning to be open for February half-term.
Why do I like working here? Why do people want to come and look round the store? Both are easy questions to answer.
It’s ‘cause old stuff is interesting.
Collections Management Trainee