The collections belonging to Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki have accumulated over many decades. In many ways the collections outgrew the space, and staff capacity, to look after them fully. With the renovated museum open, and staff working 7 days a week, the backlog of items needing attention is being tackled.
The Collections Assistant, Mrs Luana Paamu, selects an object from the back store room and examines it carefully, recording its general condition and any damage. Mrs Paamu photographs the object for our records, and for insurance purposes. If necessary she builds suitable storage for the object to ensure it is well protected in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake. For instance, a Korowai or feather cloak might be placed on acid-free tissue in a large shallow drawer, but a delicate piece of carved kauri gum could need special foam carved to cradle its shape. All the information about the object is recorded in a database, along with the objects permanent location within the museum.
As tempting as it might sometimes be, staff do not necessarily thoroughly clean an object as it can cause harm and make the object weaker. The before photos below show a herd testing kit, complete with dead spiders and ancient cobwebs, with some of the glass parts jumbled on top of each other.
In the after photos the herd testing kit has been gently cleaned; the spiders and cobwebs are gone but the glass has not been washed. The wooden boxes have been borer treated then re-assembled, and the smaller glass parts wrapped in tissue and stored in a suitable box. The herd testing kit is now ready to be assigned a permanent location in the collection storage areas.