Experts look deep into Historic World Objects

As the Reading Connections project draws to an official close, a number of consultancy visits have been run as part of its ‘World Cultures’ theme. The most recent of these was a seminar to assess the potential of the Historic World Objects collection for future community engagement, but we’ll hear more about that in a blog post to follow. A wide range of people have been involved in organising and attending these sessions, and towards the end of February one of the Reading Connections interns, Farah Qureshi, helped facilitate an object research visit. She’s written a post about her experiences of the day:

‘As part of the Reading Connections project, a selection of historic world objects collected and donated to Reading Museum between the late-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century have been highlighted for further study. Including clothing, weapons, musical instruments and tools, the objects represent historic international cultures and give us an insight into the cultural interests and travels of Reading residents.

As an intern involved in Reading Connections, I joined in helping while museum consultants visited the Reading Museums stores at the end of February to have a close look at these objects. Two of eight consultants who will contribute to the World Cultures theme of the project, Len Pole and Marina De Alarcón, were invited to Reading on the basis of their expertise. Len (freelance, formerly Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter) is predominantly a specialist in West-African material, and Marina (the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford) is mostly a specialist in South American material, although their knowledge seemed to know no limits!

After studying Anthropology for my University Masters, I appreciated the opportunity to spend two days working with Len and Marina, learning from Reading’s ethnographic collections. Both consultants have worked extensively with ethnographic collections across the world, and had an impressive wealth of information to share. While they analysed a range of objects, I found that my knowledge of world cultures was greatly enhanced observing the functionality of objects, which often shed light on cultural practices. I wrote down their observations, preparing notes to be attached to database records, and enjoyed being involved in their discussions exploring the purposes of the objects.’

Sword

This ‘executioner’s sword’ from the DRC seems to have been a hit with multiple consultants and project staff!

Internship Blog Post – Sarah Beattie

I am just over halfway through my internship at Reading Museum, and I’m really enjoying the experience so far.  Having always loved history, and particularly the way that objects are able to bring it to life, I am hoping to make my career in museums, and the experience I have gained at Reading has been invaluable.

Sarah blog photo

My main role is helping Sophie, Project Officer, with the digitization of the Berkshire Chronicle collection. As Sophie mentioned in her previous post, she has selected over 2000 images highlighting key themes in the collection, and we have spent the last month scanning these and adding the images to our internal database. This in itself has been valuable for the museum, as now these photographs can be viewed without having to touch the delicate glass plate negatives, but I am very excited to move into the next phase: shortlisting the most interesting images and researching the stories behind them, with the aim of making them accessible to the public in an online catalogue. We will be scouring microfilm copies of the Berkshire Chronicle to match the photographs with their stories, as well as conducting wider research on the people and places of Reading, and I’m really looking forward to finding out more about the images we have been working with.

As well as great images of evacuees and landgirls, local events ranging from school sports days to galas at the Town Hall, and famous faces such as Enid Blyton and Alec Guinness, there have also been lots of images of the quirkier side of Reading life – a cow on the loose in a shoeshop, nuns performing synchronized exercises and Father Christmas arriving by helicopter, to name just three!  It is amazing to be part of making these images, many of which have not been seen for over 50 years, available to the public. The online catalogue should be a great resource for anyone interested in the history of Reading, or 20th century history in general, and I’m sure Sophie will keep you up to date with progress on the project.

When I am not helping with the Chronicle project, the staff at Reading Museum have been incredibly helpful and generous with their time in letting me get involved with many aspects of museum work, from leading store tours for Heritage Open Day to helping with the installation of the museum’s upcoming portrait exhibition ‘Making Faces: Tudor to Modern’. I have developed skills in marking objects, store cleaning and environmental monitoring, handling and packing objects and working with the museum database, which I’m hoping will be really useful in my future career.

 

 

Internship Blog Post – Ceri Lumley

I have recently begun an internship with the Museum of English Rural Life. The draw of local history, and in particular that of rural tight-knit communities, was something which as a person with strong rural welsh roots felt something of a personal pull. I jumped at the chance to continue work in the same vein as volunteering I had done at university on projects concerned with the local community. This is not to do the Museum of English Rural Life a disservice as their collections are vast and eclectic, but the chance to work for and in an archive which at its heart celebrates, remembers and commemorates the local people and area, was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

photo

Writing this, I am still in the initial stages of my time here, but already I have been introduced to a wide variety of activities and work by the friendly and knowledgeable staff and the foundations are being laid for the next couple of months. Whether I am keeping busy uploading information to the ‘Reading Connections’ Flickr site in preparation for the World War One commemorations next year, digitising glass plate negatives with the new ‘GUARDIAN’ camera or repackaging the Suttons Seeds trade records, there is always something to be done and it’s all great experience. Alongside this, I have been introduced to the reception desk and I am due to have my first session in the archive reading room, there might even be the opportunity to help with the fantastic events in the Museum’s summer program, where (at least for a couple of hours) I get a return to childhood.

What I love about this type of experience, which I hope is not only a step towards my future career, is how every now and then, often in the most unassuming box of documents, something stands out. Something unexpected is always welcome in these obviously precious, but normally everyday documents. Whether this is simply the handwriting of an old letter or, as I came across yesterday the wonderful but also slightly haunting photograph of a gentlemen in the John  Tarlton collection. I was transfixed by this man’s expression and the ability of the photographer in capturing it. I hope to come across more documents like this, and, if all goes well, this internship will help in allowing me to do so in my future career in archiving fingers crossed.

Reading Connections – April to July update

It has been a busy few months for the project team – working out what we need to do, how we are going to do it, and then getting stuck into actually doing it.  We have also been skills sharing and recently the team learnt about writing blogs and social media from project team members Greta and Felicity, and Liz McCarthy UMASCS Librarian.

There have been a few exciting new developments we’ve posted blogs on previously – the new camera and the creation of the A-Z list of the archives of Museum of English Rural Life list and two interns starting on the project, one based at MERL and one at Reading Museum.  The interns will post a blog on their experiences on the project soon.

The Brook, Chalgrove

Updates on the project themes:

Reading at War

Evacuee Archive – the cataloguing of the collection is on-going.  We are working to make the archive available by October.  The catalogue will be available on our online database and the archive will be available for consultation in the Reading Room

World War 1 commemorations – Hayley is setting up a Flickr site.  The new intern Ceri will be assisting with adding information for each photo .  The University’s book of remembrance of those members of The University College Reading who fell in the War 1914-1918 is now available on the online database with images attached.  Hayley is also working on a WWI temporary exhibition.

Craft

Greta has been working on cataloguing corn dollies at MERL, so far enhancing 142 records.  She has also been working on craft connections aspect of the theme and connecting with new craft groups and re-establishing links with previous MERL contacts.

World Cultures – Historic World Objects at Reading Museum

Felicity, Greta and Ollie have been working towards the main task of creating an online portal to a selection of 600 Historic World Objects.  So far the target of 2738 objects have been checked, 1000 objects have been long listed and then 600 of these shortlisted.  Felicity, Greta and Ollie have recently had photography training from University photographer Laura Bennetto, and have started photographing objects, photography is nearing completion.

Local Collections – photograph digitisation and cataloguing

Danni has digitised 1386 and catalogued 1067 Collier negatives.  Sophie has been long listing negatives of Reading Chronicle at Reading Museum and has begun scanning them, completing approximately 250 so far.  Danni has also been sharing her digitisation skills with Sophie and helping her to get started.

Village Collections

Ollie has recently been to East Hendred, with Bridget Yates who is working on researching Lavinia Smith.  They have lots of leads to follow up relating to The Lavinia Smith collection at MERL.  There will be a seminar in the autumn series on this. 

Great progress has been made on the project by the whole team. Look out for more posts on different aspects of the project and we’ll give an update again later in the year.

Internship Opportunities

Would you like to gain experience of working in museums and archives or know someone who would?

The 'Ayes' have it The National Union of Agricultural Workers conference

Yes? The Reading Connections project team are looking for three enthusiastic people to join them as interns this summer so you’ve come to the right blog!

One post will be based at Reading Museum and offer training and supervision of  the handling of museum objects. The intern will be assisting with the selecting of images related to war from the collection under the direction of project staff and looking into the history behind the images using facilities in the museums and library.

Timing: To start 1st August 2013 for 9 weeks full time. Closing date: 1st July 2013. Total remuneration: £2,000

Another will be based at The Museum of English Rural Life and will provide the opportunity to be involved in many areas of the project and gain experience of a wide range of museum and archive activities. The tasks will include assisting with the selecting of images related to war from the collection under the direction of the project staff and looking into the history behind the images. There will also be opportunities to be involved in several other areas of the project.

Timing: To start 1st August 2013 for 9 weeks full time. Closing date: 1st July 2013. Total remuneration: £2,000

The third intern will support the research of Dr Teresa Murjas  Senior Lecturer in Theatre & Performance at the University of Reading on a collaboration with MERL and Reading Museum. They will be looking for information from within the Evacuee Archive held at the Museum of English Rural Life under the guidance of Dr Murjas and the archive staff. The intern will record and file details of the information retrieved from the archive and assist Dr Murjas in the use of the material in a performance to be staged in the Spring/Summer of 2014.

Timing: To start 16th September  2013 for 8 weeks full time. Closing date: 1st August 2013. Total remuneration: £2,000

The interns will work with many members of the project team but also carry out some tasks independently so they must be motivated and keen to learn new skills. The tasks undertaken will provide excellent experience of handling and caring for museum and archive collections, engaging the community through collections and cataloguing and digitising records. Induction and any training required will be provided by project staff.

For more information and an application form please contact: Zoe Watson, Project Manager.  z.l.watson@reading.ac.uk or call 0118 378 8670