Cataloguing the Stakeholders baskets

MERL 60/202 - photographs

MERL 60/202 – photographs

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post about the Stakeholders project – indeed, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to do any work on the project – but in the past couple of weeks I’ve finally been able to turn my attention back to my beloved baskets and have now added all the information that we gathered during the study visit to the catalogue. This isn’t the sort of skim-the-surface cataloguing that I’ve done for other projects at MERL – it’s much more in-depth. There’s now so much detail about the baskets that it’s like going from one extreme to the other.

I’ve typed up the recording forms that were completed during the visit, making a few amendments for clarity, so that all the details are available and can be brought up in a free text search. I’ve also attached scans of the original forms as well. I’ve then focused on adding the overall/general technique used*** (coiled, stake and strand, knotted or netted, plaited, twined, assembled), the main materials used, and providing more detailed dimensions. I’ve also edited the general descriptions I wrote when I catalogued the baskets first time round in summer 2012 to incorporate the additional information gained through the project and to ensure that all the details are correct.

The records now also have a really good set of photos attached to them – both general and close-up shots. Back in January we spent a very long day taking photos of about 65 baskets (the Stakeholders baskets plus those without colour photos) and ended up taking over 650 photos! And finally, as part of another project, I’ve been working through the entire collection (nearly 19,000 records) to give everything a new and standardised set of keywords – as a result, all the baskets, basketwork items and basketry tools now have keyword ‘basketry’, which can be used as another way to find them on the online catalogue (using the ‘subject’ field in the advanced search).

So have a look at the online catalogue and explore some of the baskets!

Stakeholders blog

MERL 68/202 – cataloguing work (internal catalogue view)

*** Technique refers to the overall construction of the basket. I did think about keywording for all the different techniques (e.g. slewing, randing, pairing, fitching, waling, etc.) but there were several issues with this: 1) I don’t fully understand them, which makes cataloguing a challenge; 2) I’m wary of filling the thesaurus with extremely niche keywords; 3) one basket can use so many techniques – indeed, one part of a basket can use so many techniques – so it all becomes extremely complicated to catalogue and makes the records unwieldy; and 4) I’m not sure there’s an awful lot of benefit to cataloguing in quite so much detail, especially as that information is present in the recording form (both the scan and the transcription).

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  1. Camilla Stacey’s avatar

    This is a great resource- I am in the very early stages of plotting a potential PhD based around basketry, and my own families basketry heritage. I am fascinated by the idea that there may be some kind of genetic craft memory come down from my Great Grandparents to me- I suspect the scientific answer to this would be ‘no there isn’t’ but I aim to research the basketry of my ancestors and hope to learn enough skills to recreate it. I am glad to have discovered this project and will spend some time reading!

    Reply

    1. Greta’s avatar

      Hi Camilla, I’m so glad to hear that this is of interest to you! And I have to say that your PhD idea sounds really intriguing. If you’ve never visited MERL, I should let you know that our basketry holdings are much larger than just the baskets looked at during Stakeholders project – and all of the records are available to view online (although they’re not as detailed). Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with or if you’d like to find out more. Best wishes, Greta

      Reply

    2. Lisa Harris’s avatar

      Hi Greta,
      This is fantastic – given me some great ideas for Museum of East Anglian Life!
      Thanks,
      Lisa

      Reply