My name is Rachael and I work in the Education Department of the Pitt Rivers Museum creating a database of objects in the education handling collection. This lively department is a new experience for me as my background is in collections care, which by necessity tends to have a quieter and more reserved atmosphere. Unlike a traditional museum collection that is assembled for research, display and learning, a handling collection is created so that visitors can physically handle objects and interact with them in a more direct and personal way.
|Rachael modelling a replica Porcupine Fish Helmet|
based on an original in the collection from Kiribati
in Oceania (1884.32.31) © Pitt Rivers Museum
Currently we have approximately 800 handling objects from all over the world. My work involves photographing each object then labelling or marking it with a reversible method called 'paraloid marking'. This means writing a unique number for each object on a layer of removable plastic. I then research each object and create a database record with an image and information about the object. I have catalogued 600 so far.
Because it is a database of handling objects it needs to hold specific types of information that are useful for teaching and learning: what the object is, where it comes from, what materials it is made from, what it is used for and who might use it. I also note anything interesting or unusual about the object that people might find interesting. It needs to have information that the Education Department, and Museum guides and volunteers can use as a springboard for teaching and for conversations with our visitors and school groups.
My favourite objects so far are a frog mask from Java and a replica Bronze Age axe:
|Javanese Frog Mask © Pitt Rivers Museum|
|Replica Bronze Age axe © Pitt Rivers Museum|
I am here for another two months and in that time I will finish cataloguing the objects. I will also be sourcing some more handling objects to complement the existing collection.
Rachael Utting, Documentation Assistant: Education Handling Collection, Pitt Rivers Museum