I am completing a four-month internship at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery in West Sussex. The first week of my internship was getting used to the collection by doing some research for the History Files, and working on CALM; a collections management system used for managing archives, records, and collections. History Files, or Object Files, are used by museums as a point of reference to hold information and knowledge of the object and artist, its history and significance, and its life cycle in the collection.
One of my tasks this week is to organise the Files in the correct order in terms of their accession number and to update the information that is held within them, as well as creating Files for newly accessioned objects, which is really exciting. Some digging is also involved as some works of art have no attributed artist, yet… and some Files are sparse in terms of the quantity of information.
It is really exciting to research objects in the collection and learn how they were acquired. I have learnt that many objects were donated by local people who care immensely about Worthing and the Museum. These are objects they would have held dearly, some were painted/created by family members and loved ones, and to donate them to the public is so immensely generous. By working on the History Files I am learning more about how the collection has become what it is today and the types of objects that are held in the collection.
It is currently the second week of my internship and I’ve been working on some more collection research, but have also been tasked with object handling! Through my time at the Museum, I will be handling a wide variety of objects. Prints were my first type of object I was going to be handling. I was, and am very nervous as I have not handled Museum objects before.
The objects I am repackaging and working on is 18th-century prints. Solander boxes are the best way to keep most prints, drawings, watercolours, and paper objects in conservation and preservation standard condition. They are acid and lignin free and have an environment that is dust and light free. And they are extremely heavy! You have to be sure to always carry them horizontally so as to not move the objects within them. Each print is placed individually in acid-free paper.
When handling a work of art there are many basic but important, and essential rules to follow:
- Touch the object as little as possible.
- Keep fingers away from the image.
- When handling prints or paintings created with pastel or charcoal it is important not to touch the image as the lightest touch can lift off the medium or smudge the image.
- Use cotton gloves when handling prints or paper-based objects as the natural oils from your hands can affect the object.
- When writing the accession no. on the outside of the acid-free paper (to be done before the handling of any objects) only light H pencils should be used.
My job was to replace the paper that has become slightly discoloured so they are kept in the best condition possible and to check that all objects on the box list are accounted for.
I am so excited to see what other projects/tasks I am set during my time at the Museum, and I will be posting regularly; documenting my time there! I hope you enjoy reading about it all.