But what is it called? Nomenclature 4.0 is here to help you!

Using the right terms is crucial for good museum documentation, the foundation for professional museum work. We have discussed this a couple of times in the past. Now I’m really happy that Nomenclature, the standard work for naming objects correctly in historical museums in the U.S. sees its fourth edition. Those of you who ever had to discuss with colleagues if it’s an adjustable spanner or a monkey wrench (which gets even worse in German where the same tool is called “Englishman” or “Frenchman” depending on the region in addition to about four “normal” terms) will know why having a controlled vocabulary is a blessing. I asked Jennifer Toelle to tell us a little more about the new edition:

nimnclatureNomenclature 4.0 is the most up-to-date print edition of one of North America’s most popular controlled vocabularies for classifying and naming objects in historical museums. Building on professional standards and a hierarchical structure introduced in the last edition, Nomenclature 4.0 features expanded coverage and revision by reflecting new research and contributions by museum professionals throughout the United States and Canada.

For over 35 years, Nomenclature has offered a practical, flexible framework to ensure museum documentation, retrieval and data sharing is more consistent. This system remains a standard cataloging tool for thousands of museums and historical organizations. Nomenclature serves museums by providing a system designed to consistently name objects and facilitate sharing information with staff and researchers, other institutions, and the public.

Nomenclature allows catalogers to assign names to the artifacts / objects within their collection consistently and accurately. Much like plants are grouped and categorized by family, genus and species, Nomenclature groups items in hierarchical levels based on object function. Thus, objects originally created to be used as toys or to carry on the activities of games, sports, gambling, or public entertainment are grouped in one category (Category 9: Recreational Objects) while those items originally created as expressions of human thought (for example, art, documents, religious objects,) are grouped in Category 8: Communication Objects.

The lexicon has ten categories covering all aspects of human-made objects ranging from Built Environment Objects, Furnishings, Personal Objects, Tools and Equipment for Materials, Tools and Equipment for Science and Technology, Tools and Equipment for Communication, Distribution and Transportation Objects, Communication Objects, Recreational Objects and Unclassifiable Objects. Each category is then divided into classifications and sub-classifications with Primary, Secondary and Tertiary object terms available to choose.

Catalogers in other countries beyond North America’s borders may find Nomenclature 4.0’s object terms useful in daily cataloging operations. It may be a useful reference tool supplementing already existing object terminology that may be incorporated into routine museum documentation practices.
Nomenclature 4.0 For Museum Cataloging includes:

  • An introductory essay featuring a Nomenclature users’ guide and a discussion of best cataloging practices
  • A list of more than 14,600 preferred object terms, organized according to a six-level classification hierarchy first introduced in Nomenclature 3.0
  • An alphabetical index of more than 16,900 preferred and non-preferred terms
  • A revised and updated users’ guide with new tips and advice
  • An expanded controlled vocabulary featuring nearly 950 new preferred terms
  • 475 more non-preferred terms in the index
  • An expanded and reorganized section on water transportation
  • Expanded coverage of exchange media, digital collections, electronic devices, archaeological and ethnographic objects, and more!
  • The content has been updated to accommodate cultural changes and evolving collections, making it easier to describe contemporary material culture as well as more traditional items.
  • Access to this up-to-date terminology ensures consistency of catalogued records and vastly improves the facilitation of sharing and retrieval of data.
  • This edition incorporates many new terms in direct response to recommendations made and needs expressed by colleagues “in the trenches” of collections and collection records management.

Connect with the Nomenclature Online Community!

Ordering Nomenclature 4.0

To order Nomenclature 4.0 For Museum Cataloging: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442250987

Jennifer Toelle works as the Registrar at the Smoky Hill Museum in Salina, Kansas, United States. Jennifer is a member of the American Association for State and Local History’s Nomenclature Task Force. For questions, please contact Jennifer at jennifer.toelle@salina.org

There is such a thing as too much documentation!

via pixabay, openvectorgraphicsThis may come as a shock to Rupert Shepherd and all the other folks who support the #MuseumDocumentation campaign on twitter. In fact, it was a shock for me, too. I have to elaborate a little bit to explain this:

It’s really, really hot in Southern Germany with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius / 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Until three weeks ago I would have stated with confidence that this doesn’t bother a dyed-in-the-wool museum professional. That my brain started humming “In the Summertime” by Mungo Cherry or some other summer hit of the last 40 years whenever I seriously tried to think something through should have given me a hint that the heat had an effect. But as I already wrote a while ago a registrar’s mind is a wicked thing, so I didn’t give it a second thought.

Then it happened. I sent a chapter of my upcoming book about managing unmanaged collections to a friend who offered to cram reading and commenting on my writing efforts into her already tight schedule. She’s always very polite with her comments, so this time she suggested that maybe I should think about replacing the word “documentation” or “document” in a few instances in the following paragraph:

“As you see by these examples, your documentation strategy will look different every time, because the foundation of a good documentation strategy is to consider all circumstances that play a role in this process. It is also important to recognize that ”documentation strategy“ doesn’t mean to define a certain set of fields you will fill in your data base and totally ignore that there is other useful information contained in the objects that is worth being documented. A ”documentation strategy“ is seldom one single step after which all the documentation is done but more likely a set of steps where you first document what needs to be documented immediately and define later circumstances under which you will add further documentation. Be careful to define these ”later circumstances“, as they have the tendency of translating into ”never“ if not properly defined. In Example X it is the moment the online data base is online and the proper documentation is done by the volunteers (and preferably checked by a museum professional), in Example Y it is the time directly after the move. Preferably the order in which the objects will be documented after the move is already laid out in the documentation strategy.”

Yes, I managed to write “documentation” or “to document” 12 times in a paragraph with just 200 words! Apparently, it doesn’t make things clearer which is what documentation normally should do. I really shouldn’t write this stuff when the temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F)…

I hope you all keep cool at those temperatures and manage your job well! Enjoy the summer!

Angela

Postscript: Oh no! Here it comes again! Alalalalalong…

Creative Crate Recycling

Some say museum people are natural hunter-gatherers. While this may be true, it’s also true that museums always lack storage space. That’s especially a tough one for the collections manager: while the thrifty side of his or her personality wants to keep everything in case it is needed someday in the future, the logistic side tells him or her that you just can’t keep everything because you will run out of moving space, soon.

A common issue are special built crates. Made for a special purpose, i.e. letting a certain object or set of objects travel to a distant location, they are clogging space after completion of this task. Too bulky or unsuitable for longterm storage and no matter how hard you try, it seems that there is never a travel request for an object with exactly those dimensions…

There are many possibilities what can be done with used crates. Offer them to other museums is a great one, for example. Here’s another that is quite comfy: A bench made from a crate originally built for a couple of model ships.

bench2

bench3

bench1

bench

What are those objects and where do they come from?

Making The Collection of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society (AMIHS) accessible

By Ashley Burke

Throughout the country, there are local communities concerned with preserving their historic heritage. As a result, small historical societies and museums are created to help preserve this history. Many of these organizations are volunteer run and often they do not have proper museum training, especially in regards to the management of museum collections. These museums often hold collections with minimal information and as a consequence can create difficulties in future research and development.

Saving the Heritage of Anna Maria Island

AMIHS on eHiveThe AMIHS was one of those museums. It was created in 1992 by community members concerned with their changing community. Many of the long time residents were moving away or passing on and rapid redevelopment of the island had begun to take place. AMIHS set out to capture this history before it disappeared and in 1997 also started collecting historical artifacts to help tell these stories. Over the next 18 years they amassed over 1300 objects, a historic 1920s cottage and many more archives and scrapbooks still being processed.

Many years later in 2014 on one hot Florida summer day, an unknown museum person visited the collection and commented to the volunteer on duty that the museum was not being a good steward to their collections. From this moment, the museum began thinking about its collections differently and initiated a relationship with a local museum consultant (this author). The consultant was initially brought in to perform a site evaluation to outline the preservation concerns and recommendations for implementation. One of the major recommendations was to complete a full inventory and cataloging of the collections. Based on the recommendations and the evaluation, the museum chose to move forward with the cataloging project.

Cataloging – Assembly Line Style

The museum decided to close for a month and a half (during the slowest part of the year for tourism) to allow the consultant full access to the museum unheeded by volunteers and patrons. The consultant set up an assembly line type process and went room by room numbering, photographing and taking notes in a spreadsheet, as well as adding buffers and other preservation tools to better protect the objects on display. Over time, the process became streamlined and focused on the photography. A large set of objects would be laid out, then all of them numbered followed by photography and then put back on display. During the photography, the consultant would first photograph the number of the object and then photograph the object. Once the images were uploaded to the computer, the images were all renumbered to reflect the object number. This method allowed the consultant to do most of the cataloging work off site. Armed with high-resolution images of the collection, the consultant could easily add nomenclature 3.0 vocabularies and perform some web-based research.

After the collection was fully numbered and cataloged (in the end, estimated time per object came to 7 minutes), the archives and local newspaper records were consulted for any possible donor information. Since the consultant knew the collection very well at the end of the cataloging, it was easier to match up donor information to objects.

Making The Collection Accessible Online

At the end of the cataloging project, the museum was fully cataloged, numbered, and photographed, but now what should be done with all the information? A hard copy was provided to the museum for easy access, but the museum needed a computer solution that was more than just an excel spreadsheet. The museum, however, had a number of hurdles, the main one was that there was only one computer on site and it spent most of its life in the closet. There was no server and no real tech support available. The museum needed an inexpensive, cloud, web-based solution. With this information, the consultant set about researching all the available open-source and web-based collections management software solutions.

Attached is the initial report on the various systems that were analyzed (includes the cost, and a list of pros and cons). With this report and lengthy conversations with the museum, the choice was narrowed down to two choices—eHive and OMEKA. Collections items were added to both solutions and then showcased to the board of the museum. Armed with all the information, the museum choose eHive.

Once the collections management software was chosen, the museum and the consultant worked with the database company to map the data into the collections database. The AMIHS now has a useable, searchable museum collections database—one they can easily point researchers to, as well as to actively add new accessions, and add the archival data into the database.

Ashley Burke is the collections manager at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, Florida and a museum consultant for Burke Museum Services. She has over a decade of experience in museums with a variety of types of collections from fine arts to decorative arts to natural history to archeology to medical collections (including wet tissue). She has a passion for all things museum related, Florida history and is a part-time metalsmith. She makes museum inspired jewelry in her free time.

Off the Shelf: Pair o’ Docs

Communication about objects, no matter what they are, is made easier if all parties know exactly what is meant by the names of those objects. I offer to you the following scenario:

flowerThe Extremely Amateur Garden Club is having its annual meeting and plant swap. A group of members is gathered around a robust pot of something green and lacy and hairy covered with deep purple flowers. Mrs. Soapwort exclaims, “Why, I remember those from my grandmother’s garden. That’s a Hairy Purplecup!” Mr. Thymus rubs his jaw and grumbles, “No, no, my brother used to raise those commercially. They’re Lake Lucy Laceleafs, anybody knows that!” “Laceleaves,” mutters his wife, who used to teach English. “Actually, when I was a kid, my mother made tea out of the leaves and called it False Chamomile.” At that point, they all decide to consult Dr. Plantaverde, the University extension agent. “You’re all right,” he says. “Those are all common names for jargonius confusus, or Common Aliasleaf. It probably has other names in other parts of the world, and some of those names could easily refer to more than one plant. However, if you wanted to specify this particular plant anywhere in the world, its two part scientific name would identify it unmistakably.”

The expert was using a type of controlled vocabulary; in this case, the system of binomial nomenclature we all learned about in high school science classes. It allows scientists all over the world, no matter what language they speak, to know exactly what type of plant of animal is meant by jargonius confusus. Let’s go now to our museum. A donor has given us a collection of furniture, bottles and instruments from a doctor’s office. I have no idea what a lot of these things are called. Fortunately, our family doctor is also a long time friend. I call him in to provide proper medical terminology instead of the “chrome-plated thingy with a long wire sticking out of it with a little ball on the end” that is all I know to call it. He brings with him a retired doctor friend who practiced with just the types of instruments that came with this donation. The two have a great time examining the collection. I notice that, sometimes, one of them calls an item by one name and the other calls it something different. Usually they come to some sort of agreement, so I’m reasonably sure that the term I am writing down in the inventory is the equivalent of the scientific name for our potted purplecup.

That’s not the end of it, though. Most museums, in order to facilitate communication about artifacts, make use of their own controlled vocabularies. In the case of museums that collect man made objects, many use a book called Nomenclature1, in which the author has classified artifacts according to the way they are used. There are ten categories, such as Furnishings or Tools and Equipment for Communication, under which are numerous sub-categories such as Bedding and Floor Coverings, or Written Communication Tools & Equipment. If you look under each of these sub-categories, you will find a list of words. These are the names that you are allowed to use for artifacts in this sub-category. In this way, if I call up a museum and ask to borrow a dining chair, they will know not to send me a hall chair. If I ask for a sofa, they will know not to send me something that only has an arm at one end. However, problems arise when the only name you know to call something isn’t in the book. Sometimes you have to find the closest approximation and then put the name you want to use in the description. Now, in the best of all possible worlds, Nomenclature would come with definitions. Since it doesn’t, I often have to resort to a dictionary, or to the Getty’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus2, a wonderful on-line vocabulary that includes definitions. Or, in a pinch, I can rely on my pair o’ docs.

Anne T. Lane

  1. Nomenclature is a controlled vocabulary for the classification of cultural objects invented and first published by Robert G. Chenhall in 1978. Refined ever since it is a standard work for classifying cultural artifacts in U.S. museums. Version 4.0 was published recently:
    Paul Bourcier, Heather Dunn and The Nomenclature Task Force (ed.): Nomenclature 4.0 for Museum Cataloging, Robert G. Chenhall’s System for Classifying Cultural Objects, 4th Edition, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers /AASLH 2015
  2. The Getty Vocabularies including the Art & Architecture Thesaurus can be found and used free of charge here: http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabularies/

#TwitteratiChallenge

I was quite surprised when I realized that Rupert Shepherd (@rgs1510 ) nominated our project (or its English twitter branch @RegistrarTrek) in the #TwitteratiChallenge. Reading his blog post about it I learned that he was as surprised by his own nomination like I am now. Once recovered from the shock, Helen (@crazymuseumlady) nominated us in the same challenge.

Now, what’s the trouble? Registrar Trek is a project that is alive because of its various contributors, the authors as well as the translators and the readers who read, comment, like, share and tweet about it. So, seriously, who is entitled to say: “challenge accepted” in this case?

As @RegistrarTrek was nominated and I, Angela Kipp, am taking care of the English twitter account at the moment, it seems legit that I take the challenge. But that’s just where the trouble starts. My own educator days, when I explained how the Enigma worked or how coffee is made are long over. I work in the background, far away from the challenges my educating colleagues at the front-house face every day. And the ones I would first turn to when I need an educational advice are actively interacting with visitors, school children, adults, students, toddlers, questioners and vandals. I may find them doing a #tweetup but most of them and most of the time they are out there inspiring people face-to-face, not on twitter. So, I will broaden the scope of this challenge and nominate people who do great stuff and who can be found – among loads of other places – on Twitter:

My nominees

First of all I nominate @ceciliapeartree. She’s an active collections and documentation professional who keeps pace of new developments and doesn’t shy away from pondering new technologies in collections management. Besides she writes mystery novels. A lot of them. And she even brought a little drone to her session at @ERC2014. I would love to nominate her “Coolest Collections Professional Ever” (CCPE), but as this price doesn’t exist, she’s my first in the #TwitteratiChallenge.

Then, @MarkBSchlemmer who invented #ITweetMuseums a hashtag used mainly by museum professionals who visit other museums and share what they see. A whole new way of experiencing museum visits (you may also follow @ITweetMuseums).

Linda Norris @lindanorris does amazing projects around the world, writes books, has a great blog called (Brace yourself, fellow registrars and documentalists!) “The Uncataloged Museum” and a joint blog with German and Russian colleagues called “Museum, Politics and Power” which was designed for the ICOM conference 2014 but has many interesting thoughts.

My next nominees are two museum professionals who are active and inspiring tweeters: Alli Rico @alli_rico, a young emerging museum professional whom I had some inspiring collections based discussions with and who has her own blog called Alli’s Adventures in Museums and Suzy Morgan (@Kw33n5uzicus) who is a conservator, editor of the Multilingual Bookbinding and Conservation Dictionary and always fun to tweet with.

What to do?

  • Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely on or go to for support and challenge. It might be a good idea to check that they are happy to be challenged so that the #TwitterChallenge chain doesn’t break down.
  • Record a video announcing your acceptance of the challenge, followed by a pouring of your (chosen) drink over a glass of ice. Then, the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before nominating your five educators to participate in the challenge. (This is optional for the technically challenged).
  • Write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days nominating your chosen participants who then become part of #TwitteratiChallenge. If you do not have your own blog, try @Staffrm.
  • The educator that is now newly nominated has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top 5 go to educators are.
  • It’s optional to make a donation to your chosen charity but if you do you may want to identify one or two charities that may be of interest to others. For example, Debra Kidd’s highlighted the World Wide Education Project as a great charity to support or Nepal needs all the help it can get after the devastating earthquake.

The rules

There are only three rules:

  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge. I realise this will get more complex over time.
  3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost, the rules and what to do information into your own blog post.

Wait, what about that video thing?

Okay, here you go:
Jpeg

  1. print out this picture
  2. cut along the white lines to get separate glass, beer and bottle opener
  3. open cut-out bottle with cut-out opener
  4. take cut-out glass
  5. pour imaginary beer
  6. say “cheers”
  7. say “I nominate @ceciliapeartree, @MarkBSchlemmer, @lindanorris, @alli_rico and @Kw33n5uzicus.”
  8. imagine me doing it on video

In the spirit of Nigel Lashbrook: inspiring people to challenge existing rules should be an integral part of education. Kudos to the educators who do!

Unmanaged Collections: Grandmother’s Fixes

Picture by Mimirebelle via pixabayWhen working with an unmanaged collection you are usually confronted with a number of issues that harm your collection: climate conditions, pests, leaking roofs, dripping water pipes, cracks in the wall… While those issues should be top priority on your list of things that need to be fixed professionally it will take some time to get the funding. In the meanwhile your collection suffers every day. That’s the time and the place for something I call ”Grandmother’s Fixes“.

We all know that grandmothers are great at fixing problems, may it be a broken vase, finger or heart. Grandmothers have gained a lot of experience in carrying a family through rough times of scarce resources. The “Grandmother’s Fixes” are about improving things right there and then with your own hands and with stuff that is available and costs little to no money. Of course, you shouldn’t try to fix a broken vase with superglue like your real grandmother would. The grandmother I have in mind is an ideal grandmother, an easy to imagine superhero with the superpowers of common sense and creativity. Very old, very wise and very caring. ”Grandmother“ with a capital ”G“ on her apron, that’s her.

My favorite “Grandmother’s Fix” was done for a collection stored in a huge industrial hall. About 50% of the roof consisted of windows which made it a bright place to work but also very unsuitable for collection storage. A note made with pen on paper faded so much that it was unreadable after only 6 months in this hall! The “Grandmother’s Fix” to that was incredibly simple: the windows were painted over. This was done in just a few days, cost only a few buckets of paint and reduced light levels significantly. The long-term solution was moving the collection to a more suitable storage area a few years later, but the fix reduced stress imposed on the collection immediately.

What was your favorite “Grandmother’s Fix” in collections care?

What took you so long?

A week in the life of a collections manager

One of the delicate glass slides

One of the delicate glass slides

I love my job, really. To be responsible that every artifact is at the right place, at the right time when it is needed is a wonderful duty, so is the challenge to keep them safe for future generations. However, there’s one thing that bothers me and I know bothers many colleagues in the field of collections care, may they be collections managers, registrars, curators, conservators, documentalists or data base managers. It’s the question “Why does this take so long?” or “Why isn’t that task finished, yet?” It bothers me so much that I swore to myself if I run into a good example, I’ll write a blog post about it. Well, last week was a very good example.

Glass slides wrapped in acid-free tissue

Glass slides wrapped in acid-free tissue

One of the very first things I discovered on this early Monday morning was a very heavy box, roughly the size of a shoebox. Inside were dozens of glass slides like they were used for a ”Laterna Magica“ or magic lantern back in the 19th century. Some were in their original boxes, some piled on one another without any support. Some of the slides already suffered damage because of the poor storage conditions. Repacking them was inevitable. I spent the rest of my Monday doing some research and inventing a better storage for them.

Fitting ethafoam block with cut in supports

Fitting ethafoam block with cut in supports

I figured out that wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper was a good start. However, to store them they should have a home where they couldn’t move and get damaged. It should be easy to find the slide one is looking for and take it out without having to touch other slides. I took an ethafoam block, cut it the size of an archival box and cut into it supports for the slides. That way the slides can be carried around safely, can’t slip inside the box and everyone can find a needed slide fast.

Every support has written what slide you'll find inside

Every support has written what slide you’ll find inside

I assigned the task of building boxes for the remaining slides to my student assistant on Tuesday. First of all because I had other things to do and secondly because I’m not a good box builder while she does awesome artifact homes (see ”Storage Solutions: A Home for the Barcode Scanner“). I focused on finding a place for the slides. They should find a home where our collection of photography and camera equipment is stored. But, like many other museums, we have space issues. With the new packaging the slides would need the place of six archival boxes which I didn’t have in this row of shelves. Finally I figured out if I repacked the collection of narrow film cameras into archival boxes so I could stack them I could gain about 3 free shelf boards.

Shelves with repacked narrow film cameras and the six boxes with glass slides (marked red). You can also catch a glimpse of the now empty shelf boards.

Shelves with repacked narrow film cameras and the six boxes with glass slides (marked red). You can also catch a glimpse of the now empty shelf boards.

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. We are changing our location tracking system from pure manual to barcoding. To push the project forward we established the policy that every item we have in hand gets its new object label with barcode. This is especially a good policy because many of our old objects labels have polyvinyl chloride sleeves we want to get rid of.
I got 118 narrow film cameras to repack, so I printed out 118 new object labels, cut them, folded them and assigned them to their respective camera. Of course, every new archival box needed a label so we know what’s inside. They had to be printed, cut and attached as well. Sitting on another shelf means getting a new location entry in the data base – and of course the archival boxes got new distinct identifiers that needed to be in the data base, too.

So, you can easily imagine what I did Tuesday to Friday. Of course I performed some other tasks, too (read Anne T. Lane’s ”Off the Shelf – A Day in the Life of a Collections Manager“ for more) and after the six boxes with glass slides were located I still had two and a half shelf boards of newly created space for the next camera equipment that comes in. But if you don’t look at the bigger picture you could sum my working week up to: I relocated a box of glass slides.

Angela Kipp

Rembrandt on the Forklift

Originally published on March 25, 2015, in German on the TECHNOblog of the TECHNOSEUM

The forklift is indispensible in our storage facility.

The forklift is indispensible in our storage facility.

Admittedly, when colleagues from art museums take in collections, you could go green with envy. Rembrandt, Goya, Cranach… While our AEG K2 Magnetophon is rarer than a Blue Mauritius, there aren’t many people who get really excited about it. And whether the Mona Lisa or our “Eschenau” steam locomotive brings a gleam to more children’s eyes is debatable. Technology fans must confess, though, that the names of technical devices are often short on glamour.

From Berlin to Mannheim

The delivery of the objects from the Deutsche Rundfunk (German Broadcasting) archives has made up for some of that. In recent weeks, we unloaded about 1,500 devices from the former German Broadcasting Museum from various trucks and moved them to our collections storage facility. Of course we had to confirm that everything that came from Berlin had safely made it to Mannheim. During the verification process, we suddenly felt a little like our colleagues at the art museums—or maybe more like tour operators and recording officials.

A Rembrandt of Our Own

Our colleagues in the storage facility know exactly where each television is located.

Our colleagues in the storage facility know exactly where each television is located 1.

Sachsenwerk and Rafena in Radeberg gave their television sets artistic names such as Rembrandt, Dürer, and Cranach. Philips, on the other hand, stuck with cryptic designations like “23TD321A,” but their nicknames read like a “Who’s Who?” of art history: Raffael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Tizian, Bellini, Goya, and another Rembrandt, though this one from 1962. Blaupunkt imagined itself in southern vacation paradises, with names like “Toskana” (Tuscany) and “Sevilla” (Seville). Graetz went all noble with “Landgraf” (Landgrave) and “Markgraf” (Margrave). Nordmende sent a “Diplomat” into the field, Philips a “Mediator,” and the marketing team at Loewe even decided on an “Optimat.” VEB Fernsehgerätewerke Staßfurt (Stassfurt Television Works) struck out on a different path, where Ines, Marion, and Sibylle provide good sound and picture quality. And if they don’t, who could seriously hold it against an appliance with such a pretty name?

Those of us in the Collections Department cannot allow ourselves to be taken in by the fancy names, however. In the upcoming months, our task will be to examine, sort, and register the collection. Then we’ll have to pack the objects in such a way manner that they come to no harm for the next few decades yet are still available at any time: the “Zauberspiegel” (Magic Mirror) as well as the “Bildmeister” (Image Master), “Lady,” and her “Kornett” (Cornet)—and a “Rembrandt” or two, of course.

Angela Kipp

Translated from German into English by Cindy Opitz.

  1. Disclaimer: Neither I nor the other colleagues are responsible for the stacking of up to three TV sets, the paletts arrived that way. We put it in order immediately.

Unmanaged Collections: Worst First Impressions

alttext As I announced recently I’m looking for real world examples for my book about managing unmanaged collections. The first chapters will have much to do with the process of getting an overview of what items the collection consists of, defining priorities and developing a strategy to tackle them.

I think maybe the worst moment is the first time you see the collection. It’s the moment you get the first idea of how much work it will be and how many issues you will have to face. What was your worst first impression? I think mine was a collection of vintage cars and agricultural machinery crammed into a shed in a way you could barely walk and sometimes had to crawl over a few things to get deeper into the collection. All the objects were rusty, a considerable amount of windshields were smashed and the fact that this place was inhabited by mice, martens and pigeons was sadly all too obvious. To make matters worse, there were some more delicate objects carelessly crammed in between the bigger objects and I found something that turned out to be a lady’s dress under a plow.

What was your worst first impression when you worked with an unmanaged collection?