“Nature’s creative power is far beyond man’s instinct of destruction.”
― Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Every Monday and Friday since the beginning of February I have assisted the Registration Department as a student intern, cataloguing the in-house travelling exhibition Voyage to the Deep.
The exhibition is the brainchild of Creative Producer Em Blamey and is loosely based on Jules Verne’s classic novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas.
As such, its main component is the 3D interpretation of the submarine Nautilus, a colossal design which reflects elements from both the 1870 novel and the 1954 film adaptation (which harpooned a secure spot among sci-fi classics). Em’s blog post reveals more about the inspiration for the exhibition. One reason for its creation was to commemorate 100 years of submarine service in Australia (celebrated in 2014).
I have worked in close association with Em and Rhondda Orchard, the museum’s Managing Registrar, to accurately and thoroughly document all aspects of the exhibition, objects from which are primarily interactive and structural based. I have also worked with exhibition preparators to group objects together based on their appropriateness for storage and travel.
This collaboration determined how the objects were to be entered into the museum’s database, TMS (The Museum System). Some of the main pieces include the submarine’s walls, conning tower structure, a child-friendly pipe organ, a large slide and a giant inflatable squid.
To complete the object records as fully as possible, I needed to read through detailed isometric drawings to ascertain not only specific object dimensions, but to understand the physical characteristics and specific components of each piece, the majority of which were built in-house.
The main aspect of my internship involved meticulously documenting and recording all grouped records. My main responsibilities included photographing each item (or group of items), preparing descriptions and researching any materials used, or whether any of the objects had pre-existing names.
The process as a whole emphasised the need to standardise data entry conventions across the board; if a database is to be a successful storage device and search engine, methods of data entry and naming must be consistent. Admirable traits in a museum registrar therefore include patience, attention to detail and adherence to strict methods of data entry to ensure accurate object retrieval.
One of the big questions that my internship posed was whether a comprehensive and in-depth cataloguing of objects within a museum collection meets the needs of both the institution and of the museum user or online browser. It is a question that is at the forefront of museum digitisation practice internationally, and one that is likely to continue developing in coming years, especially as technology changes and methods of data retrieval become more prevalent in society.
The experience and exposure gained during my internship have been invaluable in developing an appreciation and practical understanding of industry standards at first hand. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in the museum sector to apply for an internship where available.
― Nicole Dahlberg, Registration Intern
Voyage to the Deep: Underwater Adventures is open at the Australian National Maritime Museum until 26 April 2015.
Find out more about current work opportunities at the Australian National Maritime Museum.