Monday, January 23, 2012

Volunteer Work Behind the Scenes

Every Friday Helen Price volunteers her time to the Museum and travels up to our main store and conservation area to work on objects in the collection. As she is a trained conservator we are extraordinarily lucky to have available to us her skill and knowledge.

Helen has worked with many objects but in particular has created custom-made housings for objects kept in the main store.  Obviously if an object is badly stored and handled it will lead to damage and deterioration occurring. For objects that are already fragile and in a poor condition it is even more important to ensure they are properly supported while ‘sitting’ on a shelf. Helen has made housings for, amongst other things, books, uniforms, hats, bags and jewellery. She has made boxes with multiple compartments for HMS Sirius artefacts that are works of art in their own right!

Recently, the museum made the decision to ask Helen to make boxes for the valuable Births, Deaths and Marriages and other records such as Land Titles, held in Registry at Kingston. These BDM records date back to 1882 and an earlier, The Pitcairn Island Clerical Register, dates 1853-1882. The books are historical artefacts, but they also need to be accessed by staff in their work at Registry. Of course, regular handling pulling them on and off shelves and opening the pages and limited storage options has led to damage occurring and many are in a very fragile state. Scanning of the records has occurred so the original documents do not need to be handled often, but they still need to be accessed from time to time and they need to be stored correctly. Helen has begun creating custom made boxes for each of the record books and she has designed them so that the book does not have to be taken out of the box to be read – the box always stays as a support behind the book and the pages are able to be turned within its protective walls.

The acid free board that is used to make the boxes is expensive and the museum has a limited supply. However we felt that these records though not part of our collection and responsibility, were too valuable to risk losing and that it was important that they be attended to. Of course, the job is only able to be carried out with Helen’s expertise and voluntary effort available to us. At some stage in the future it would be wonderful to give them a proper home where sufficient space and proper environmental conditions were available. Re-binding is also an option – but one far beyond our means at present. In the meantime, we are pleased to be able to support Registry staff with their handling and storage of these important documents that record so much of life on this island since 1856.

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