‘Oh Audit my Audit’, Unley Museum Collection by Bronwyn Phillips
Review of photographs
Over the last few weeks I have gone through some of the SAPs (South Australian Photographs). SAPS are special plastic folders that contain the Unley Museum’s photographic collection. Dr Elizabeth Hartnell (Museum Curator) and I decided it was impossible to go through the entire collection. There are over 10,000 items and 5,000 are photographs; we thought an audit of parts of the collection should give a good idea of its condition and what is in it. I need to asses the collections condition to rank items in urgent need of correct storage and preservation. If, as I have found with some photographs and early documents, they are not correctly stored, then their ‘significance’ could be lost forever as they deteriorate. As custodians of the museum’s collection it is our job to redress these problems sooner rather than later.
One of the other volunteers, Terrie, is systematically going through the storeroom. This is a room that is kept at a constant temperature of 19 degrees centigrade and houses most of the collection. This is the ideal temperature for the collection’s preservation. The air conditioner is kept on at all times, 24/7, and this could be problematic if there is a power or equipment breakdown. Terrie has been checking the collection shelf by shelf to make sure items are there and that they have numbers and are accessioned. I have asked her to let me know if she comes across anything that is in poor condition and/or in need of restoration.
I started on SAP 25 which was full of interesting photographs of all manner of things, from old shops that no longer exist, old tram shots, and Art Deco buildings etc. The first tram was horse-drawn and electric trams came later which travelled down Unley Road. Most of these photographs are in good order. There are some empty sleeves with notes in them. The notes say the photographs are away being digitized, however they have not been put back and this was some time ago. Those photographs could be anywhere. Some of them were in sleeves with inappropriate cardboard or tracing paper, which will need replacing with acid free paper at some time in the future.
CON 4 (Councillors) This folder contained the photographs of the Councillors from 1929 -1933. What a grumpy, gruff group of men. They were wearing groovy hats in the 20s and 30s. Still, in those days you were not meant to smile in photographs; it was serious business. Many of these photographs have been removed from old albums or frames and still have old glue on their edges. The old glue is made from ground horses hooves. This will be professionally removed. Some had negatives in with them; they need separate sleeves. I then decided it might be wise to go through the earliest councillors’ photos (CON1) to see if they had the same problem and they did. Glue, bits of tape and paper and the old glue comes off and floats about in the sleeves, damaging the photographs. I finished looking at the photographic collection in the following weeks. The following are the albums I have looked at thoroughly. Nevertheless, I have looked at others as we are retrieving them for staff (council and volunteers) to choose one item or photograph for the coming exhibition “Silver Selection from our Collection”. This is to celebrate 25 years of collecting at the Unley Museum.
- SAP (South Australian Photographs) 18, 25, 26,19, 28
- CON (Councillors) 4, 1
- BUS (Business) 5
- CHL (Children) 2
- MIL (Military) 1, 2
- CEL (Celebrations) 2.
Most of the collection I have looked at is in good order and there are some really interesting old photographs, especially the WWI pictures of light horsemen and Captain Harry Butler’s plane on Unley Oval. There are far too many to list and every one is interesting or connected to different aspects of Unley life. Many photographs have connections to each other but are not together or in order in the folders. I guess this is because the donating and accessioning occurred at different times. My next post will check the rest of the collection.