Wednesday, 15 July 2015

THE GRAD SCHOOL GUIDE TO COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT

COLLECTIONS CORNER

BY: JENNIFER MAXWELL

Do you remember Evelyn Carnahan from the movie The Mummy? She was the librarian working for the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, and she was very proud of her profession. She even journeyed to the City of the Dead and confronted some rather unscrupulous characters, all for the cause of one artefact. That is some collections-development dedication right there!

I have always admired Evelyn Carnahan’s zeal for collections. I love museums/history/artefacts, so entering into Museum Studies was an easy decision. Navigating the Master of Museum Studies programme in search of Collections Management (CM) knowledge and experience has been rewarding, and I have learned a great deal over the past year. Below is some of the best advice I can offer first-year students interested in the field of CM.

I. What is a Collections Manager?


Be prepared to fix inconsistencies in the collections records. Source.
So, what does a collections manager actually do? A great many things. A collections manager is essentially responsible for maintaining physical and intellectual control of collections. But what does that mean? It means that you need to have knowledge of the objects, the storage, handling, conservation, and management of the collection. That’s the short version. I think you will get an idea of the longer version as you spend more time in the MMSt programme.

II. Which courses are the best?

Which course covers topics in collections reanimation? Source.
When it comes time for course selection, Collections Management (MSL 1150H) is the quintessential choice. This course provides both practical and theoretical knowledge on the care of collections in museums, galleries, and similar institutions. But this is not the only course available to CM students.

As collections managers, we can find work in both large and small institutional settings. In larger institutions our work might be more narrowly focused, i.e. strict description and digitization entry. This stands in contrast to smaller institutions where the work involved might be more varied. It is not uncommon for collections managers in smaller institutions to perform curatorial work, research, and educational activities. With this in mind, having practical and theoretical knowledge in collections-related subjects can be immensely beneficial.

From my own experiences, I would recommend courses in archives management, interpretation and mean-making, exhibition and/or curation, as well as conservation/preservation (to name a few). Because CM is an integrated and integral aspect of museum operations, you should be as well-rounded in the field as possible.

III. What about an Internship?


You too can be this fabulous in your internship! Source.
For those interested in the internship course – which I strongly suggest – it is the perfect opportunity to develop skills and experience in CM. That being said, CM internships are not always the most advertised. It’s not enough to rely on the internship course for internship opportunities. While it may be an intimidating notion for many, contacting prospective institutions directly for internship opportunities is recommended.

Do not be afraid to be a bit adventurous too - consider internships in all types of institutions, from corporate archives to independent art galleries! For example, plenty of business corporations keep archives on-site and are fantastic un-tapped resources.

IV. What are the best resources?

All the knowledge! Source.
Rest assured there are plenty of book and article resources available to MMSt students, including some fantastic websites and databases at your disposal. Some of my favourites include the Canadian Conservation Institute, the Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material, and the Collections Management Standards Toolkit. The amount of practical information available through these sites is astounding.

Also, take some time to read curator and museum blogs, as some of these sites offer everyday insights into collections from museums, galleries, and similar institutions. Be sure to visit museum, archive, and art association/council websites, as well. The online museum community is a wonderful place.

Any advice to add or questions to ask? Post them in the comments!

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