What did you do at work today?

When I get home in the evenings and my flatmates ask me what I did at work, my answer is usually ‘cataloguing’. Felicity and I (Greta) spend most of our time on the project cataloguing. We’re working to enhance the existing computer catalogue records for all the objects in the collection with information from the accession files, with the hope of transforming the records from this…

 

… to this

 

With about 17000 records to get through, it’s a daunting job. We’ve been working on it for 2 months now and are hoping to reach the 2000 mark at the end of this week.

This is the first time Felicity and I have worked at MERL so when we began we knew very little about the collections and the quantity of information. We therefore decided to begin by doing a cataloguing ‘sample’ of the first fifty records from every five years to give us a feel for what we’d be working with and how long it would take us. Since then, we’ve been working chronologically through the records from 1951, when the Museum began collecting, but are ready to switch to cataloguing particular areas of the collection when required by different elements of the project, such as iMuse and Historypin.

This project is ultimately about ‘place’ and that is what we are concentrating our cataloguing on – recording information about where our objects were made, where they were used and where they were acquired from. And for me, as someone with a strong interest in intangible heritage, place is an extremely important concept when it comes to collections like the ones we have at MERL – farm tools and traditional craft products developed in response to their physical environment, to the soil conditions, to the local materials available, to the landscape and so on. So, as well as finding out where our collections have come from through this project, we can gain a deeper understanding of the objects themselves and why they are as they are.

Here at MERL we use Adlib, and are working mainly with the ‘Production / Dating’, ‘Usage / Object history / Ownership’ and ‘Acquisition’ tabs, and a ‘Rapid object entry’ screen designed for the project. In addition to recording information about provenance, we are also writing short, accessible descriptions for each object as everything will be available on Enterprise, our public-facing catalogue. We’ve been creating a hierarchy of geographical keywords into which we can put all this provenance-related data (look out for a post on this topic soon) and we’re also working to tidy up our list of object names and make them consistent (at the moment there are over 8000 in the list, which is far too many) as ultimately we hope to reduce them to a drop-down list. But there are many discussions still to come on object names.

Anyway, I’d better get back to the cataloguing if we’re going to meet our target of 2000 tomorrow!