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4 Dec 2018

Nothing revealing to say

Written by Mark Bishop, Director of Customer & Cause
With steady hands, and the right materials, I had a go at painting the object number onto the base of each jug
With steady hands, and the right materials, I had a go at painting the object number onto the base of each jug
From the outset, the Project Reveal teams have done a cracking job of telling the story of the project, and we’ve all been included on the work of their cataloguing journey every step of the way.

All the brand insight work we did last year said time and again that people love Scotland, and really value the places that we exist to protect and promote. But far too few actually knew these places and collections were being lovingly looked after by a charity, namely us. So Project Reveal is a brilliant example of what we can all do better: share in a planned way what the Trust is doing day in, day out – for the love of Scotland.

I recently had the opportunity to experience a ‘day in the life’ of one of the Project Reveal teams. I popped along to the National Museum of Rural Life, where the cataloguing is well underway and the team are nearing the end of their task.

In front of me were a number of objects, including a couple of small jugs. The team were already calling them the ‘caterpillar jugs’ by virtue of the fact that the handle is designed in the style of a caterpillar – who may or may not be hungry, and may or may not turn into a beautiful butterfly to quote a book that anyone who is a parent will probably have read a 1,000 times over!

One of the ‘caterpillar jugs’
One of the ‘caterpillar jugs’

The process of classification is to create an electronic record that enables the key features of each item to be described, and an item number assigned. With steady hands, and the right materials, I had a go at painting the item number onto the base of each jug so that we can link each object to our records.

Cataloguing and numbering the jugs
Cataloguing and numbering the jugs

Another fun part of the process is taking a range of photos of each object.

Setting up the jugs to be photographed
Setting up the jugs to be photographed

Since the caterpillar jug wasn’t going to go out of its way to strike a pose, the key was to ensure the light meter was right and the angle of the camera set up to avoid unnecessary glare. This was more than taking a simple snap. Indeed, all the micro-details of the process highlighted to me just what a labour of love Project Reveal has been. We’re cataloguing and classifying everything in our collections so that we can better understand what we’re protecting for future generations, and to enable us to devise compelling and varied ways to display these collections as we go forward.

As Project Reveal gets closer to its successful first stage of completion, my mind turns to some of the exciting possibilities that are ahead of us. How we can present our collections in interactive and vibrant new ways through digital channels and social media? Perhaps we could offer digital advent calendars for 2019 where someone can gift a friend who, let’s say, loves pottery jugs. The advent calendar ‘window’ would reveal a different jug from our collection each day during the run up to Christmas. Another possibility would be to compile pub quiz style competitions where we ask people to guess the origin of an object from a multiple choice list. The list is endless. Of course, any future opportunities will take vision, time and money – but the point is we now have these choices ahead of us because of the hard efforts of the Project Reveal teams.

I loved the chance to get out of the office, because the work of the National Trust for Scotland is so much better expressed at our properties and other places. My thanks goes to the Reveal team for letting me in on their project, which will open many doors in the future.

Project Reveal is a Trust-wide collections digitisation project. It will result in an updated database with high-quality images and unique object numbers for every item in the National Trust for Scotland’s material culture collections. Six regionally based project teams, supported by experienced project managers, will work across all our properties with collections to complete the inventory in 24 months from July 2017 until July 2019.

Project Reveal

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

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