post by collections volunteer Nicola Moss
I was delighted to hear that Museums Galleries Scotland were holding an Object Handling Training Course and even more thrilled when The Black Watch Castle and Museum team asked some of their volunteers to attend! As someone keen to develop my understanding of collections care, I felt this to be an unmissable opportunity.
Myself and others from our volunteer team were able to join a small group consisting of individuals from different fields and museums, all hoping to gain more in-depth knowledge on the handling and treatment of objects. We learned about these and much more besides!
After a brief introduction, we dived straight into learning how to assess objects for handling. We placed ourselves into groups and were then provided with our objects, ready for assessment. In our case we received a 1940s travel iron. We then worked together to decide if there were any issues that would arise from the handling of our object and how we could best plan for these. This was a good practical exercise that enabled us to think about the different problems that objects can produce. Group discussions gave us the opportunity to learn about the challenges that others had noticed with their objects.
We also spent time working through some scenarios and developing risk assessments for them. Talking about a variety of possible situations provided us with a deeper understanding of the many problems that could arise and the need for carrying out risk assessments. We ended the morning with some very fantastic photographs that demonstrated, quite clearly, how not to handle objects! Amid the giggling and the gasps of horror that these photographs produced, they also got us thinking about the reasons why we should handle objects correctly and how some thought and planning could make a lot of difference.
Once we had devoured the wonderful lunch provided for us – with very delicious
sandwiches, cakes and biscuits – we began looking at and learning about the different types of materials and equipment that are available for the packing and safe moving of objects. We discussed why some methods have been changed or are no longer used in order to create a safer environment for the collections. We also looked at how ‘puffs’ and ‘sausages’ created from tissue paper could create a safe environment. This was quickly followed by short experiments with these shapes!
Another hands on group exercise followed. Our group was given a very ornate teapot that we had to then pack carefully in whatever manner we felt was best. All groups placed their objects in sturdy boxes with a good selection of ‘puffs’ and ‘sausages’ to hold them steady. By the end of the day, we were ready to plan our temporary exhibition! This written exercise revolved around one scenario, where we decide how to go about planning an
exhibition and what items we should include.
Needless to say, the day flew by and the training session headed to a close. It had been a fantastic day with lots of ground covered and many different activities to keep us all thinking. The course provided us with lots of information on object handling from how to form a risk or object assessment, to deciding which materials to use when storing collections. I now feel more confident in my ability to handle different types of objects and can only hope that I bring some of the knowledge that I have gained to my voluntary role at The Black Watch Castle and Museum.