Linda Keohone, Collections and Access Officer, Glasgow Life and Anne-Marie Masson, Collections and Access Officer, Glasgow Museums
A presentation on the use and development of a Collections Management System (Mimsy XG) for the information management and dissemination of data to facilitate workflow of the project, with an emphasis on storage of the collection.
The Burrell Collection is formed of a gift of 9000 objects donated to the city of Glasgow in 1944. The collection comprises various two and three dimensional objects, ranging from tiny amulets to complete stone arches. A home for the collection was built in 1983 in Pollock Park, and in 2013 it became an A-listed building.
A leaking roof and ageing plant machinery meant a full refurbishment (HLF funded) was required to protect the collection. This began with an inventory project in 2015, with nearly all objects being moved to the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre repository by October 2017. There were some objects, such as fixed architectural features, which had to remain in the building but they were protected throughout the renovation works.
The Covid pandemic prolonged the timeframe of the project, and although builders were allowed in sooner, it wasn’t until April 2021 that staff were allowed to return. However the open date remained fixed so there were challenges to meet in order to meet the opening date of March 2022.
During lockdown they held a series of workshops to design the collection stores, 17 workshops in total. One positive of the lockdown periods was having the luxury of additional time to keep tweaking and refining plans, which wouldn’t usually be the case. The tweaks were based on staff feedback, e.g. critical input from technicians who use the space the most, determining the orientation and access of the storage.
The previous textile store and a third of the furniture store were turned into exhibition space, leaving the collection team with no option but to turn to high density storage. Previously small three-dimensional objects were in open storage, but they are now boxed in mobile racking. Specific storage boxes were chosen which meant there was no dead/free space on the shelves, in order to maximise the space available.
Another way they were creative with space was by removing a false ceiling to gain 1.5m of additional storage height. One of the new stores was given an innovative design feature – a glass reveal wall. The external, public facing end of the store was projected with a film and images about the collection. When film stops, you can see through into the store – both the objects and staff inside!
Linda spoke about some of the challenges they encountered, e.g. populating the galleries before the store and then having to receive deliveries after the building was opened to the public.
However, the project was made easier by producing various lists from Mimsy XG which Anne Marie spoke about in more detail. A new area of the database (‘instructions’) was developed which became Conservation’s remit, and allowed the input of display and packing instructions, separate to where curators input their data.
At the point of the decant they also took the opportunity to revalue all objects. This information was also added to Mimsy and used as a risk assessment tool; lists could be pulled detailing the total value of the objects proposed to be in a certain area of the gallery space.
Some challenges included: working out how different people liked their data presented and also a point of confusion with an external partner using an out of date list with old information. In total they pulled around 100 reports; from supporting documents for the funding application right through to A3 reports printed for each display case installation instructions.