Leah Mellors – Community History Cataloguing Internship Report
I have spent 30 days working with Marek Romaniszyn, in the Community History team at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre, documenting his digital film archive and a collection of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic objects.
Community Film Archive
The digital film archive contained around 70 films that needed to be documented retrospectively. The films included the ‘Contemporary Collectors’ series, the ‘Faith in the City’ series and the ‘A Greener City’ series and most had accompanied an exhibition or display in the Leeds City Museum. I watched each film, taking detailed notes on what was said by the interviewees and, where possible, took direct quotations from the films. These quotations helped to give a greater insight into the content of the films but also gave some of the descriptions a more light-hearted feel. Having taken detailed notes, I documented each film on ‘The Museum System’ database, recording information such as provenance, constituents, exhibition history and date. I wrote a comprehensive description of each film, which could also be used on the website.
Having ensured that each film had a full database record, we needed to create a DVD playable copy and a MP4 data copy of each film. I burned a MP4 data copy of each film onto an archival-grade disc, whilst the DVD copies were burned by an external party, as the software was not available to us. Each disc was labelled with its title and accession number and placed in storage boxes. Seeing all 140 discs neatly labelled and lined up in their storage boxes was surprisingly satisfying! All the films were then placed in the Discovery Centre store and located on the database.
Not only did this project give me a thorough understanding of documentation using a museum database, it also gave me a really good insight into oral history films and how they can be used to complement an exhibition. It was fascinating to hear people’s experiences and memories and I learnt a lot about Leeds and the different perspectives, cultures and faiths in the city. By far my favourite series of films was ‘Faith in the City’: I have always been interested in religion and belief and these films taught me a great deal about different faiths, from the first-hand perspective of ordinary people practising religion in Leeds.
London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic collection
Alongside the documentation of the digital film archive, I also documented a collection of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic objects that had been collected by Marek. Many of these objects related to the Olympic and Paralympic experience in Leeds and included the lamp that carried the Paralympic flame to Leeds and a wheel-guard from the Canadian Wheelchair Rugby team, who stayed in Leeds to complete their pre-Games training.
I completed the documentation process of these objects from start to finish. Firstly, I assisted with ‘Entry’ and ‘Transfer of Title’ forms, to accession the objects. Then, I labelled the objects with their accession numbers, either writing the number onto the object using ink and varnish or writing the number onto cotton tape and sewing this into textile items. I photographed the objects before recording information such as date, provenance, materials, dimensions and physical condition. Some research into the context of the objects was also required. All of this information was input onto ‘The Museum System’ database, before the objects were packed into boxes and stored in the Discovery Centre store.
As with the digital film archive, this project taught me about the documentation process for objects and the minimum standard of information required. It was really useful to see the entire process from beginning to end. I also learnt how to pack objects with acid-free tissue paper, using rolls of tissue-paper to cushion the folds of textiles. More than anything, this project improved my confidence when handling objects and an unexpected bonus was a slight improvement in my sewing skills!
I have really enjoyed my time as an intern here and have gained valuable experience, especially in documentation. I have also gained a good awareness of conservation and outreach work, simply by speaking to members of staff and sitting-in on outreach sessions. I have recently secured a full-time curatorial traineeship at the Herbert Museum in Coventry and the skills and experience I learnt during my internship at the Discovery Centre undoubtedly helped me to secure this job. I am very grateful to have been given such a great opportunity.
Leah Mellors April 2013