Curating an external exhibition

As a freelance curator, I do get asked to mount exhibitions for other organisations, sometimes in their location, sometimes not. Putting on an exhibition of unfamiliar objects with an unfamiliar subject in an unfamiliar location brings one or two challenges and more than a few questions. Invariably an initial conversation goes something like this: ‘Hello, are you a curator?’ ‘Yes, I am.’ ‘Can you put […]

When it really is too late

Recently I was approached by a large global company who needed my help with their heritage collection, which they were very proud of. They weren’t sure what they had and had no idea how to use it. I looked, assessed and quoted for cataloguing and digitising the collection, which comprised boxes of photographs, promotional material, old newsletters, ledgers and company documentation with a few other […]

Digitisation: one way to be remembered at work

Digitisation is a hot topic at the moment (OK, I’ll qualify – it’s a hot topic in the world of collections and collectors).  By 2008 the number of devices connected to the internet outnumbered the human population.  We love to be online and digitisation can only enhance this. Digitisation (the scanning or photographing of physical items into a digital form) is a great way of […]

Love devouring a good book? Meet the real bookworms – and they’re better at it than you.

It’s World Book Day on Tuesday March 2nd. Our nation loves books. Adults, children, even babies, we all love devouring a good book. Unhappily though, we aren’t the only ones. The larvae of moths, booklice, carpet beetles, spider beetles, silverfish, woodworm (also known as bookworms), and death watch beetles, (true!) all enjoy books even more thoroughly than we do. That’s gross. Why would they do […]

Hoarder, accumulator, collector: a collective obsession

Hoarder, accumulator, collector: a collective obsession ‘Obsession: Collectors, Collections and Collecting’, was an exhibition I put on a while back, reflecting the passion of collectors for their objects.  Part of the exhibition involved defining what a collector was and how they differ from hoarders and accumulators. The crucial differences in defining whether someone is a collector, a hoarder or an accumulator is the way in […]

5 things to save in a fire

Recently an article in Cotswold Life caught my eye. Adam Edwards was asking what five things you’d save from your home in a fire, assuming that children, pets and photographs had been saved. Easy, I thought, I’d take the…the…hmm. After the children, pets and photographs? Nothing else would seem of that much importance.  You start to think about what’s significant to you, don’t you? So, […]

Cold: why collections and archives don’t much like it

It’s been cold – below zero – in the UK the last few days, with days more chilly weather to come. I’m keen to have warmer weather (unless there’s snow coming, in which case bring it on) and it’s a sure thing that if you’re storing collections and archives in basements or attics, they’ll be suffering too. Why? How can cold cause problems? I’ll use […]

Museums, Libraries, Archives…and Companies?

Museums, archives, libraries – the traditional repositories and exhibitors of history. Now, though, are company archives beginning to fill in the gaps? In previous years, a company might maintain an archive, strictly for its own use. It might or it might not have used the archive. Whichever way, if the company shut down, or if it wanted to share knowledge, the collection would be either […]

Out with the old and in with the new…and the old

Heritage for the new year This time of year is often a time of reflection, evaluation and of planning. What went right? What went wrong? What could be improved on? How can you improve client perception of your company’s trustworthiness, survival skills and friendliness? With a heritage strategy….of course! If your company is older, more venerable, has been around the block a few times and […]

Leverage for collections – Boots the Chemists’ archives

While checking LinkedIn this morning, I was attracted by an interesting image. It was a blog from Boots the Chemist with a cartoon line drawing from 1903. I saw that Boots’ Archive Department were cleverly using their archives to create an online 2016 advent calendar with a new image each day – brilliant marketing, fabulous leverage and a lovely historical way of marking the passage of […]

Finding out that my role is quite unusual

I recently attended the British Archive Council’s annual conference at the HSBC building in Canary Wharf. The theme was diversity – not of people, but of archives – diversifying, really.   Each speaker discussed the new challenge of getting one’s archive ‘out there’; of getting it to work for its owners; of justifying its existence; of how to exploit it for company benefit. Historically there […]

Art: keeping it cool

Last Monday I went to a lovely pub restaurant; one which is part of a new chain. I was impressed. There were friendly, helpful staff, lovely interiors, a log fire, fabulous, well-presented food and a corridor filled with what looked like original artworks. On closer inspection, I found that they were indeed originals. They were very interesting, large, pen and watercolour pieces and each reflected […]

The importance of correct storage packing

As a museum curator, I know that packing items correctly for storage is vitally important. This is something that trainee museum curators are taught on the MA course and which is drummed in during our working lives every time we come across damage, as it’s so often due to incorrect packing. Most people aren’t aware of this, and why should they be?   If organic […]

From trilobite to kilobyte

Meet Fred, who sits on my desk next to my mouse. Fred is a trilobite. He lived a while back; sometime about 400 million years ago he was living in what would now be Morocco, with volcanoes above him and a warm coral sea below. At this time life had exploded in the seas: arthropods ruled the oceans, fish and sharks were becoming prolific and […]

Company history or lunch?

Everyone has heard tales of Granny pulling out her fox fur, clothes moths flying everywhere and the once-beautiful fur in tatters. Recently a Scottish relative showed me his kilt and jacket. These 60 year old family heirlooms had been ruined over one single winter. He’d even had to buy new socks as when he’d put them he had found that the heel had been eaten […]

Emergency planning: company collections and archives

Most companies have undertaken emergency planning involving staff and visitor evacuation, IT and furniture removal – depending on the threat –  but how many of you include your historic company collections and archives in your plan? For instance, how many of you would even consider the unique antique oil painting of the company’s founder in the rush to remove the easily-replaceable-backed-up-centrally-overnight laptop? If your plan […]

The value of company archives and collections

Are company archives and collections valuable? The answer depends on what’s in them.   This doesn’t necessarily mean that a valuable collection has to be filled with oil paintings, gold bullion and precious jewels – far from it. Company collections, unlike museum collections, are judged both on intrinsic and financial value, so a good company collection will be invaluable to the company regardless of its […]

Dust: eating into your company archives

I read a humourous line recently: ‘Dust is a protective coating for fine furniture’. Obviously that’s a joke, but the joke is more about perceived standards of housekeeping than the realisation that dust is anything but protective.   Preservation specialists have known for a long time that it is actually harmful, so much so that the very image of a museum curator is bound up […]

Using company archives to aid change management

Companies going through a period of change – perhaps new leadership, redundancies, reshuffling, mergers or buyouts – might find that a historical exhibition of the company’s collections and archives can help to effect good change management for its staff and clients.   Change is inevitable in any dynamic, forward-facing organisation but it can lead to low staff morale and unfavourable customer opinions. It is therefore beneficial […]

Should a company display its assets?

I asked my husband what his employer’s company does about its history. ‘It’s all in an archive, it’s not on display’. I asked why not, and he said that the company was very forward facing and had designed all its branches and head office to all look identically modern, with the same branding, the same carpets, curtains, paint – even the prints had all been […]