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A day in the life of Project Reveal

Written by Indigo Carnie, Project Reveal Team Manager, North
Inventory work in progress
Inventory work in progress
There are many similarities, and some big differences, between the work of Project Reveal’s North East and North West teams. So how do their days unfold?

The North West team consists of inventory officers Deirdre and Oliver and photographer Robyn. In the morning these three head up the tree-lined driveway to the glorious Brodie Castle, and walk round into the old servants’ quarters, from where they will plan their day.

Meanwhile Ross, Marianne and photographer Bill of the North East park up in the rather more mundane surroundings of a museum storage facility in Angus. But there is treasure inside, as this is where the Angus Folk Museum collection is in temporary accommodation.

The Angus Folk Museum collection in temporary storage
The Angus Folk Museum collection in temporary storage

The Angus Folk Museum collection is carefully packed away in boxes and on pallets, so the first job of the day for Team North East is to select the next box off the racking. What will be inside? Every box is different, and the team are always intrigued to know what their subject matter will be for the next few hours. The collection covers the working and domestic life of Angus during the late 18th, 19th and early 20th century. Subjects include the home, school, church, dairy, working the land, animal husbandry, costume and weaving. Recent boxes have contained everything from a whisky still and a witch ball to curling stones and a selection of police truncheons!

Each object is carefully unwrapped and laid on a stable surface. The inventory officer finds the marked object number and searches for this in the Trust’s collections management system, Adlib. With the record in front of them, they upgrade the description, making sure this evokes the object as readably and precisely as possible. This sometimes feels akin to writing haikus – the teams have impressive vocabularies of shape, surface-texture and colour words. They also make sure other key information such as the maker, date, dimensions, material, condition and location are included in the record. Finally, they check that the object number is securely marked and re-do this if necessary. They then unpack the next object, and repeat! Once the box is finished and carefully re-packed, it is moved to Bill’s photography studio, where he lights it and takes enough images to identify the object and capture any important details. The fully inventoried and photographed box then goes back on the racking, and it’s time to pick the next one.

Bill the photographer in his studio
Bill the photographer in his studio

At Brodie Castle the process is essentially the same, just in a very different context. Instead of shelves of boxes, the team work through objects in their historic room settings. This means they have the joy of spending time in beautiful spaces such as the Drawing Room and the Dining Room, but they also have challenges to negotiate. Every morning they have to climb steep stone staircases lined with Old Masters with their photography kit, laptops and tables; every evening they take these back down again. There are tight spaces, low light levels and objects affixed high on the walls to be reached, as well as potentially toxic wallpaper to be avoided. However, they have the benefit of the combined knowledge of Brodie’s staff and volunteers, as well as the enjoyment of meeting knowledgeable visitors to the castle. The North West team have inventoried 20th-century masterpieces by artists such as Raoul Dufy, fine 18th-century French furniture, and many copper pots and pans in the Victorian kitchen.

Inventorying in Brodie Castle’s Drawing Room
Inventorying in Brodie Castle’s Drawing Room
Can you spot the Inventory Officer?
Can you spot the Inventory Officer?

Both teams will move on to new properties in due course, which will be different again. They have enjoyed Brodie Castle and the Angus Folk Museum collection hugely – but whose day would you prefer if you had the choice?

 

Project Reveal will result an updated database with high quality images and unique object numbers for every item in the Trust material culture collections. Six regionally based project teams, supported by experienced project managers, will work across all of our properties with collections to complete the inventory in 18 months from July 2017 until December 2018.

 

Project Reveal

Find out more about this Trust-wide collections digitisation project.

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