Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Caring for the Collections

Along with the many thousands of objects on display in the Pitt Rivers Museum, staff in the Collections and Conservation Departments work hard to look after those objects from the  collections that are not on display and kept at the Museum stores. 

I usually work at our store with a conservator one day a week in a bid to improve the cataloguing and long-term storage of the objects housed there. After completing a two-year project to catalogue and box the extensive arrows collection, myself and conservation Interns Conor Tulloch and Miriam Orsini have recently embarked on a similar project for the adzes and axes in the collection.

Conservation intern, Conor Tolluch working 
on an adze © Pitt Rivers Museum
A number of the adzes and axes have needed remedial conservation work, where the blade has become detached from the haft. In cases like this both parts are secured to a custom-made Corex board using conservation cotton tape, this keeps the two parts together and prevents further damage. The location in the store where every one of the adzes and axes are housed is then carefully recorded on the objects database, making it easier for museum staff to retrieve them for research, display, cataloguing and photography.

Adzes and axes in their old location 
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Those adzes and axes which are small enough are stored in conservation grade boxes. This prevents the objects from gathering dust and also makes the objects easy to locate and move should they ever need to be relocated in the future. 

Adzes and axes are being moved into a area of the store with more generous shelving so they are better organised and less cramped for space. 

The shelving they used to occupy will be re-allocated to other collections. The project is on-going so look out for photo’s of the new adzes and axes storage in the coming months. A number of adzes and axes can be seen on display in the Upper Gallery of the Museum. So far, we have found that we have a large collection of adzes and axes from Papua New Guinea collected by Beatrice Blackwood during her time spent conducting fieldwork in Papua New Guinea in 1936. Her field notes, in the manuscripts collections of the Museum often included notes on construction and use of some of the adzes and axes she collected.

Adze fore-hafts ready to be catalogued and boxed © Pitt Rivers Museum

Faye Belsey
Assistant Curator

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