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The Polar Museum: news blog

One year down, one year to go

A very colourful collection of Antarctic trousers.

A very colourful collection of Antarctic trousers which have been studied, condition assessed and photographed for the Antarctic Cataloguing Project.

It’s Antarctica Day! Having passed the halfway mark in the Antarctic Cataloguing Project, I thought it was a good time to share what I’ve been up to over the last twelve months and report back on the progress I’ve made.

Most of my time is spent doing one of three things: 1) working in the object stores studying the Antarctic collections alongside Sophie and Christina; 2) sitting at my desk trying to translate my pages of scrawled notes into neat and tidy object descriptions; 3) reformatting the object records and populating them with as much detail as I can, including giving detailed descriptions and adding in classifications, associations, and any references I have come across (be they objects, archives, photographs or library material). And every now and then, I spend a rather frantic but quite fun day with the photographers (and whoever else I can rope in to help, including Sophie and Christina, work experience students and interns) photographing objects.

object photography

It can be exhausting work doing object photograpy – frantically trying to get objects out, remove labels, position them for photography, put labels back on, put them away, and keep track of which objects have been photographed and in what order… And the lighting means it gets rather hot! Not to mention the reindeer hair – which gets EVERYWHERE.

It’s always nice to have a few stats (who doesn’t like stats?) so to date:

  • 1050 objects studied (and condition-assessed by Sophie and Christina)
  • 982 records reformatted into our standardised template (including records for 917 of the objects studied so far, and 65 records for other objects such as those that have been deaccessioned)
  • 961 objects photographed
  • Images for 434 objects processed for the web

It’s quite a satisfying process working category by category through the collections. So far, we’ve managed to get through goggles, medals, clothing (including handwear and headwear), footwear, skis/crampons, geology, natural history, animal equipment, foodstuffs and bags. We’re currently working on domestic equipment and scientific equipment.

This process is really helping us to get a much better idea of what our ‘Antarctic collection’ comprises. I’d initially identified approximately 1850 objects as relating to the Antarctic, but as we work through the collections we discover that which previously had no Antarctic attribution in the database are found to have one, or things that were assumed to be Antarctic-related are found not to be – so I think the final tally will be nearer 2000 objects.

I've currently got seven notebooks of scrawled object notes... I wonder how many I'll get through by the end of the project?

I’ve currently got seven notebooks of scrawled object notes… I wonder how many I’ll get through by the end of the project?

To help place our collections in their historical and cultural contexts, a dedicated team of volunteers have been helping to create biographical records for members of Antarctic expeditions, many of whom are connected to the objects we hold in the collections – and have created over 240 records so far. Volunteers have also been carrying out research into the expeditions themselves so that we can create biographical records for expeditions as well – and we’ve started a series of ‘Spotlight on Antarctic Expeditions’ blog posts to highlight some of them (see the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1949-52 and the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955-58). We’re hoping that these records about people and expeditions will ultimately be available online to complement the Antarctic catalogue.

The next big push is to put is to put this first tranche of objects into our online catalogue – and we’ll be sure to let you know as soon as it’s available! Until then, I’ll be down in the basement studying and photographing more objects, or at my desk creating beautiful catalogue records.

Greta

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