About Tehmina Goskar

Tehmina Goskar is a museum professional and a historian. She loves food, cooking, Penzance, Cornwall and Siamese cats.

Curator’s Advent. Day 22. Conservation supplies

In need of conservation supplies. Serious condensation inside a showcase

In need of conservation supplies. Serious condensation inside a showcase

Purchasing conservation supplies is retail therapy for the curator.

Solander boxes. Unbleached cotton tape. Melanex sleeves. Acid free tissue. Goat hair brush. Distilled water. Tyvek. Humidity control cassettes. Nitrile gloves (S, M, L, XL). Solid brass paperclips. Book sofa. Light meter. Thermohygrometer. Plastazote.

Museum gel.

Curator’s Advent. Day 21. Art hang

Nothing is straight - shows a row of five framed prints

Nothing is straight

Simple, yet fiendish, the art hang requires a different set of skills to the mounting of objects in showcases or for open display. What happens when:

  1. The ceiling isn’t straight
  2. The tops of the walls aren’t straight
  3. The floor slopes
  4. The frames aren’t straight

Throw out the spirit level and trust thine eyes.

Curator’s Advent. Day 20. Documentation backlog

Documentation at the Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Napoli, Italy

Documentation at the Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Napoli, Italy

The documentation backlog was the bees-knees museum trend of the late 1990s/early 2000s. It sailed forth amongst the arguments over access vs preservation and rose above the fights for and against perpetuity. Any curator who has the luxury today of dealing with a documentation backlog will no doubt relish the task ahead. It’s probably the nearest today’s curator will get to the Joy of Cataloguing. The depressing bits usually involve a lack of paperwork showing what belongs to the museum and what doesn’t and discovering an entire filing cabinet of ‘long-term loans’ or even ‘permanent loans’. Many modern museums will not permit time to be spent on documentation backlogs meaning that collections will be properly prepared for the post-truth era.

Curator’s Advent. Day 18. Archives

Photographic postcards displayed as museum objects in the Isles of Scilly Museum.

Photographic postcards displayed as museum objects in the Isles of Scilly Museum.

Is an archive (series of documents) just another type of museum collection? No it is not. Archival and documentary collections are organised differently and the information they contain is (mostly) read rather than gleaned through observation, measurements and other forms of object research. However, sometimes you’re going to walk straight into Dilemma Avenue. Is a collection of photographs an archive or a set of objects? When is a manuscript book an archive and not an artefact? Context is everything. If 100 documents or papery writings come as a set you might like to threat them archivally. If you have two or three photographs as part of a donation you might be more tempted to keep them in situ and threat them as objects. What’s the most useful way you can organise archives for the benefit of your people?

Curator’s Advent. Day 16. Slow death by copyright

Nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here

The curator who wants to share collections freely and openly is saddened by the imperialistic appropriation of out of copyright works by virtue of creating a new slavish copy. The curator who wants to share collections freely and openly is saddened by the government licensing scheme for orphan works. The curator who wants to share collections freely and openly is saddened by the perpetuity in copyright imposed by corporate buy-outs. The curator dies bit by bit at every opportunity lost.

Curator’s Advent. Day 15. Loan out

Cardboard box with sign saying Be Against Trampled.

Loan out: Be Against Trampled.

Any curator should get excited at receiving a loan request. Traditionally addressed to “The Director,” s/he will ceremonially pass on the request to us in the know to seamlessly deal with the transaction. The particular breed of curator that usually deals with loans out (and in) are the wonderful registrars. Facilities reports all OK; insurance certificate received; condition check done; packed up and ready for shipping (transport booked?). Job done.