11 July 2016

Visit to V&A Archives

Joining mailing lists such a APML is a great way to find out about upcoming events and tour. My most recent tour was of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) Archives at Blythe House located in Olympia. Initially the Head Office of the Post Office Bank in 1900s, the grand building was taken over by the V&A, British Museum and the Science Museum in the 1950s. With the addition of a study room, storage facilities and Textiles Room, Blythe House became known as the building to house the archives and collections of these 3 institutions. 

At the start of the visit, Christopher Marsden, Head Archivist of the V&A Archives printed the picture of the development of the V&A archives. With focus on design education in 1830s, mainly British art and design industry from 1920s and the Great Exhibition of 1982 the importance of archives and record keeping policy came into play. It became necessary to record correspondence to matching objects in the V&A collection in nominal files and information about the V&A building design itself. Logbook of materials, photographs also became an important source to track the history of and locate objects.   

The collection has continued to grow in areas of children's literature books such as Beatrix Potter, theatre performance, fashion and textiles. It now comprising of 4 units: 

·         the Archive of Art and Design
·         the Beatrix Potter Collections
·         the V&A Archive
·         the V&A Theatre and Performance Archive
Open 4 times a week the V&A Archives is available for consultation by appointment only. It is heavily used by enthusiasts, students and academics. I definitely enjoyed seeing the collections of art and design related to British and British based companies, some still in business today. Some of the material on show was the Ideal home photograph album, designs from Garrard silverware and House of Worth items. 

I would encourage others to visit these archives to learn more about specialist collections such as art and design. You can see a few pictures of the visit below. 

N.B. Permission was granted to take photography on this visit. 

25 May 2016

Frustrations and solutions for library outreach

Every so often you find a surprised visitor who enters our study room and says, “Oh! You have library?” to which with a sad sigh I respond, “Yes. We have about 9”.

Specialising in art, archaeology, anthropology, numismatics, conservation and scientific research from around the world, these libraries are available to the public. To be fair, each Museum department with public research facilities require a pre-booked appointment except the Anthropology Library and Research Centre. So, why do stories of readers being told that “there are no libraries at the British Museum. All our books are at the British Library” keep cropping up? 

18 May 2016

Archiving artistic heritage in museums

Last November, I attended a conference for 'Unboxing the Archive: how Tate is transforming access to our artistic heritage' at Tate Britain. As I have started a new project on listing the Asia Department Archives in the British Museum (BM), considering the prospect of digitising such an archive has become an increasing thought.

A vast majority of the 20th-century objects in the BM collection have archival correspondence detailing how the object became part of the collection and related files to multiple exhibitions. Whereas the BM Collection Online Database holds the basic information about each object, their corresponding archival files demonstrate the processes and attitudes regarding acquiring art during the time period. This information is valuable to understand how collections develop and change over time and can help people trace family members connections to the BM. Therefore, it is unfortunate that this information is not readily available especially online. As Rosemary Lynch stated in her opening remarks at the conference:

11 May 2016

Experiences transitioning to RDA

The British Museum has recently switched from Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) to Resource, Description and Access (RDA) in a hybrid-catalogue intervention.

Alan Danskin, Collection Metadata Standards Manager at the British Library recently presented to the Association of Pall Mall Librarians on the introduction of RDA. He pointed out that for many; RDA was created due to the perception that AACR2 was not fit for purpose. This is because it has not adapted well to recent changes in user expectation and technology where information in presented on different platforms such as the web. Therefore, managing the cataloguing environment has become increasingly complex and the metadata captured needed to change.
There are free online training materials and webinars available for learning about RDA. However, the main issue with implementing RDA in small libraries or museums is that there are not many training courses or advice available. I have only come across the ‘RDA in a day’ course offered by the BL. As many will know this became very full, very quickly! Alan stated that the course was success and would run again possibly this year.