A la Modes (or In at the Deep End)

I’m one of two new part-time Collections Assistants and I’ve just completed my 13th day in the Collections in the Landscape team. Since the beginning of July I’ve been starting to find my way around the fantastic collection at Buxton. As part of the team developing the new Wonders of the Peak gallery, it’s vital to know what’s in the store room and what its significance is in the context of the central theme for the project of Derbyshire Lives and Landscapes.

There’s been all the usual induction, reading policies and procedures, health and safety checks, meeting the staff and the amazingly knowledgable volunteers and working out how we all fit in.

A lot of the ‘getting up to speed’ has been technical in nature. I’m getting to grips with a different collections management system – Modes – and how that supports the myriad admin procedures peculiar to museums such as accessioning objects (formally accepting them into the collection), updating the information held on objects, tracking their movement, condition and conservation and so on. On Monday, we all had a day of formal Modes training which was great for reinforcing the basics and helping us think about what’s needed for the information in Modes to mesh with digital access to the collections.

We’ve started pulling groups of objects together for the various sub-themes we’re considering for the new gallery. Modes is vital to that because it allows us to run searches on various object attributes. That can only work if all the objects have meaningful entries, consistently described, so that’s an area of work we’ve started on by clarifying what the object records should look like.


I used this newly accessioned specimen to consider what we want ideal ‘fossil’ records to look like on Modes and how to make them consistent.

Another technical area we’re looking at is the curatorial aspects of decanting everything from the gallery. We had a great talk from Sam Bainbridge who’s been working on this as a project during a placement at Manchester Museum.


Sam’s idea for protecting the wonderful Buxton bear with a ‘bear bag’.

Mixed in with all this, I’ve been able to feed my natural history bent by spending a bit of time researching a small herbarium in the collection (previous blog here) and I’m trying to find out more about two cabinets of beautiful butterflies and moths and how they came into the collection.


I want to get a deeper understanding of the geology of our area, as it’s core to the collections, so on Wednesday I got a lot out of sharing the gallery with local geologist, Pete Webb, a veritable mine of information. I’m looking forward to visits to Ecton Mine and Fox Hole Cave in the near future, and to working with the amazing cave material in the collection.


Museum Manager, Ros Westwood, shows Pete part of the mineral collection.




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