Collections Vol 8 N1

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"Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals" is a multi-disciplinary peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the discussion of all aspects of handling, preserving, researching, and organizing collections. Curators, archivists, collections managers, preparators, registrars, educators, students, and others contribute.

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A Journey of 13,033 Stones The Westlake Collection and Papers

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Rebe Taylor

Australian Research Fellow, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia; email: rttaylor@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract The Westlake Collection in the Pitt Rivers Museum includes 13,033 Tasmanian Aboriginal stone artefacts; it is the largest collection of its kind. Formed by amateur English scientist Ernest Westlake from 1908–1910, this paper tells the story of Westlake’s life; why, and how, he chose to travel to Tasmania to collect stone artefacts; and what happened to that collection after his death in 1922. It also explores Westlake’s collection as an enactment of nineteenth and early twentieth-century scientific ideas about Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and examines his accompanying paper archive, in particular his interviews with Aboriginal people. Possibly the richest source of Tasmanian Aboriginal language and culture dating from early twentieth century, these long-overlooked notes demonstrate the enduring traditions of a people once presumed extinct. An epilogue explains how these papers are being published in an innovative online archive guide and history.

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The Curation of Transition From Manual to Electronic Documentation Systems

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Keletso Gaone Setlhabi

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Botswana, Private Bag UB 00703, Gaborone, Botswana; email: setlhabik@mopipi.ub.bw

Abstract New technologies have transformed information storage and retrieval procedures in museums. The challenge for curators is not only to have quality collections information for internal collections management, but is also to avail it to their users through public spaces such as exhibition halls and the World Wide Web. This paper discusses the challenges encountered during the transition from a manual to an electronic documentation system in the Ethnology Division of the Botswana National Museum. The advantages of digital systems such as collections availability through the Internet though crucial to the museum users, remain a challenge for museum communities in Botswana where Internet availability is beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. The analysis of the Division’s documentation system revealed that the problem of insufficient collections information in manual records was transferred to the electronic system, which resulted in an ineffective electronic system. The recommendations are that firstly, clear documentation procedures must be formulated, adopted and documented to guide collections staff in their work. Secondly, in their quest to adopt new technologies, museums especially in developing countries, must still seek to be relevant to their communities. In conclusion, new technologies should be implemented after pre-computerization evaluation and needs assessment processes for effective information dissemination and community bridging purposes.

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The Pedagogical Value of Special Collections The Modern-Day Wunderkammer

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John Daniel Tilford

Curator of Special Collections, University Archives and Special Collections, The University of the South, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, Tennessee, 37383; phone (931)598-1787; email: jtilford@sewanee.edu

Abstract This essay examines the pedagogical value of academic collections of fine art, artifacts, and archival papers often collectively referred to as Special Collections. It is imperative that original source materials play a stronger role in the university curriculum by moving beyond digital surrogates and teaching from the work itself. Specific acquisitions are then examined in order to illustrate how the University of the South sought to fill voids in their collections to better serve the curricular needs of faculty and students. In addition, the care of the collections themselves is shown to provide benefit to the student in terms of processional development. Finally, an interdisciplinary research project focusing on a particular work of art from special collections illustrates the multiple benefits to be derived from utilizing such objects in the classroom.

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