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Doffing the cap to the Harrogate Collection

Stories from the team at Mercer Art Gallery as they review uncatalogued items donated to the Harrogate collection.

The UK Museum Accreditation Scheme, a nationally agreed standard for all museums, demands a regular review of the complete Harrogate collection. 

This review looks at how the collection is organized, the ease of public access and ultimately underpins public funding. Twelve volunteers started work early in October, helping the permanent staff get everything in order for the next review.  A fair challenge for a collection containing many items donated by Harrogate residents.

So how does an item that you may gift to the museum enter the collection? 

First we will ask you for relevant information on the object. How did you acquire it? Is there a link with Harrogate? Where and when and how it was made? 

This information is recorded on an entry form which stays with the object. 

Next the object is cataloged in the Accessions Register and given a unique number. All this information, including photographs is then uploaded onto the museum database. Finally, the item is wrapped, and boxed if appropriate, and placed in the air conditioned museum storeroom. The location of the object in the store is added to the database so that it can always be easily found. 

Well, that is the theory, but often part of the process is completed and then pressures on time or other duties interrupt; consequently the item remains in a holding area in the storeroom awaiting the rest of the process. Sometimes an item is put on display and then does not find its way back to the correct place in the storeroom.

Collections Medium

The treat of finding items

The team of volunteers is currently completing the cataloging of these “mis-located” items and making discoveries as we go along. For example, through searching the database, a soldiers khaki cap, a cap badge, a button badge and an identity card were linked together. Then, by searching through the Accessions Register it was discovered that an army greatcoat had also been donated by the same family. The result is that these items are now grouped together within the database and any future search, perhaps for an exhibition, can identify all the objects and locate them in the store.

It is anticipated that we shall be continuing well into next year as, after we have sorted out the backlog of items, we move onto the full audit of around 25,000 items in the Museum collection. Wish us luck!