Life as a Remote Museum Volunteer

By in From Our Volunteers

Hello readers, my name is Sanjna and I form part of an enthusiastic Collections Volunteer team at Headstone Manor and Museum. I joined the team in September 2020, after recently completing my undergraduate degree in BA Comparative Literature and Culture. I have since become passionate about caring for and preserving objects, as well as improving the accessibility of collections. Joining the team at such a pivotal time for museums (having to adapt to Covid-19) led to an unfamiliar territory of working with collections remotely.

Working alongside my team members (remotely!) I was tasked with cleaning the data on the museum’s digital register, under the expert guidance of the Museum’s Digitalisation Project Officer, Kelly Accetta Crowe, and her step-by-step training. Whilst words such as ‘accession’ appeared to be alien at first, what was initially unfamiliar slowly and surely became familiar. I learnt that ‘accession’ refers to when an object legally enters a museum, in which a museum is then responsible for its long-term care, and the ‘register’ is a permanent record accounting for all the accessioned objects.

In these past months, equipped with my laptop and a cup of tea, I have filtered through and edited data of over a thousand museum’s objects in the digital register, such an object’s description. This required a high level of attention to detail. I had to ensure that the data in the digital register had been correctly inputted from the paper copies and that the information has been clearly transcribed and in the right fields. As simple as it sounds, it could be challenging at times to come up with a single object title—something that offers clarity and is succinct. How would you title the object ‘cheek piece’, categorised under horse riding equipment?

A few objects have also thrown some unexpected challenges. For example, an object I came across was described as ‘two utility sheets and three utility pillowcases’, arising questions if this should be separated into five individual objects or if this formed a set. Nonetheless, these challenges helped to develop my collection skills.

This project has given me the opportunity to get to know the collections at Headstone Manor and Museum on an in-depth level, discovering its richness and diversity—from a Kodak Brownie Camera to a beautiful embroidered Victorian quilt. It has ultimately provided me with a better understanding of the local area, the community, and its history. I have enjoyed and even found it soothing to work on this project, that will no doubt have a lasting impact towards my future career in Museums!

You can find out more about volunteering at Headstone Manor & Museum here.