One of the very first tasks I started for the exhibition was creating an inventory of the collection at St Mary’s Church. This was quite a daunting proposition; not only were the objects scattered around a rather large building, but the Heritage Trust and the church managers didn’t quite know what they had on-site.
Happily, the majority of the objects that we could use (and had some historical importance) were located in a small chapel seldom used by the public. However, this came with another issue in that there was no information available concerning dates, where in the church they came from. They were also stored on wooden shelving and left to collect dust, which is far from ideal.
After several weeks of chipping away, I finally managed to get to a stage where I had enough data and a fair idea of what’s hidden under the dust and drapes of St Mary’s. A small note: I stay “a stage” because we keep finding new objects, or hearing about them from parishioners with every visit. Exciting and frustrating in equal measure!
This week, spurred on by developments in other areas I decided to digitise the inventory I had so far. At the beginning when we were still just talking about what we would like to do, we talked about how great it would be to take an inventory of the collection, and then create a museum database that the church could use afterwards.
If you’ve read my last post, you might know where I’m going with this. A museum database is a great idea in theory: easy to keep track of your objects, displays useful criteria and has an interface designed for heritage folks to quickly get what they need. In reality though, it’s a lot of effort for something that the Heritage Trust likely won’t use.
I’d also have to ask my colleagues to download the software (we were going with the free Museum Archive Software Project), along with the trust and the church managers. The latter has no computer on site as far as I know. I tried the software and I noticed a glitch or two that could potentially cause problems further on.
In the interests of saving time, accessibility and reliability I decided to transfer the inventory to Microsoft Excel. It’s not ideal, but it is easier to use and the chances are a computer will already have the software installed.
Besides a few things I need to add (such as a neon renovation sign which is currently in hiding), we’re now up to the point where we can sit down with the inventory and a copy of the exhibition space and get designing!