Last Thursday 21 October, I visited the Queensland Museum. I met with Paul Avern, Collection Manager, Collection Systems; Cecelia Ryan, Manager, Collection Systems; Lisa Harvey, Head, Collection Services; Dr Geraldine Mate, Senior Curator, Workshop Rail Museum and Imelda Miller, Assistant Curator, Torres Strait Islands and Pacific Indigenous Studies.
Staff at Queensland Museum had already produced a possible list of collection groupings Collection Group List. They enjoyed the idea of creating new collection groupings and giving people different views or entry points into their collections. In fact Imelda observed that it was an opportunity to direct researchers down new pathways, away from the well trodden traditional collections made by white men in the nineteenth century!
Another discussion centred on the practicable aspects of creating collection groupings in the database and reflecting these groupings on the Website. As I’m sure is the case with all of us, having an idea of what would make a good collection grouping and being able to easily retrieve these records in the database are quite different things. All of us have cataloguing backlogs and thematic concepts are not often recorded in catalogues.
Over the past three years Queensland Museum has been undertaking a major stores rationalisation project and as part of this like objects have been housed together. Lisa Harvey who has been managing this project observed that searching by location could be an effective way to create useful collection grouping. These groups could then be saved in the database.
In the afternoon at Cecilia’s suggestion, we worked through writing a draft collection level description. The example chosen was the MacGregor Collection, a significant historical collection of over 4000 items from Papua New Guinea. It was agreed that as well as providing a high level description it would be useful to break this collection down into more manageable chunks. After some discussion it was felt that the database field of “collection type” could be used. Descriptions could then be provided for the MacGregor domestic objects, MacGregor fishing equipment etc. This approach should make this collection more appealing to a wider range of researchers as well as increasing it’s “findability” by providing more detail.
The development of a common object name thesaurus for Australian use was also of particular interest to the Queensland Museum and they are keen to participate in this aspect of the project.
It was great to meet with the staff at Queensland Museum and talk through some of practicable aspects of using their collection database (Vernon) to help with this project.
Image credits: Knitted bag and tapa cloth, both from the Macgregor Collection, Queensland Museum