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Letter: The Museum Needs More Than a New Cataloguing System

Published on: 19 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 19 Apr, 2022

From: Gavin Morgan

founder of the Guildford Heritage Forum

In response to: Guildford Museum’s Friends Give New Collections Management System For 100,000 Objects

Guildford Museum has purchased a new cataloguing system thanks to a very generous donation of £17,750 from the Friends of Guildford Museum. However, according to The Dragon article, it will not be accessible to the public, will not contain pictures of the collections and will take decades to complete.

Only 10 per cent of the collections are on display so the 90 per cent in-store will be totally inaccessible. Other than help the council fulfil its duty to maintain the collections it owns, this system will not benefit the town unless it feeds into other initiatives.

I would therefore like the museum to consider the following suggestions.

In 2012 a previous collections officer, Mary Alexander, commissioned professional photographs of 1,000 objects from the collection as a representative sample. Some of these were featured in a Dragon article.

Why doesn’t the museum get these items properly catalogued first and get them online?   I raised this in 2015 and over the next few years about 100 of these photos found their way onto the council website with the help of volunteers. Unfortunately, I can no longer find them on the museum’s website although the borough paintings are there (see them here). Putting all 1000 photographs online in a simple form would help the museum raise its profile.

In 2018, through an initiative started by The Guildford Dragon, 20 professionally made videos of items in the collections were made. The museum and council insisted on taking over responsibility for the project but the videos have never been released by the council.  The council should sort this out, urgently, and get them online as well.

Finally, although The Dragon article says only 20,000 objects are in the catalogue there is, I believe, a digital inventory of the entire collection. (See this article by the previous collections officer, Catriona Wilson – see Inventorying the Guildford Borough Council heritage collections). I was given a printout of the Gertrude Jekyll collections a few years ago. This inventory could be put online. At the very least why not develop a detailed summary of the collections online by building on the statements in the Museum’s Collections Management Policy?

Guildford Museum is lucky to have the support of its Friends, set up in 1995. This current donation of £17,750 is the latest in a long line of gifts, ranging from a Lewis Carroll designed stamp case to a Norman coin minted in the town.

They helped restore a Dennis lawnmower and fitted out the displays in the Undercroft. Their most significant donation was for the Victorian schoolroom which has provided a unique educational experience for countless children since 2001.

Guildford does indeed have some wonderful collections and the museum needs to make sure they are accessible for the public to enjoy.

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