Author Archives: mart0524

The Catalogue: A Must Have in Museum Health

By Sarah-Anne Martin

It could be said that within the body of the museum the catalogue is the heart; the museum lives or dies based on its health. Through my directed study project at the Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum, this concept has become very real to me as I work through the collection of 300 plus Past Masters Jewels assigned to me. The reality of my task is that the work that I do now may set the precedent for future cataloguing projects. This, of course, has encouraged me to do my very best and to perform my cataloguing task with accuracy and in a concise manner that could be followed and replicated. I fear that one day I’ll look back on my work as a much more experienced and seasoned heritage professional, and cringe at what is now the very best I can do. Through all this I cannot help but reflect on the process and how tough it can be, especially for small museums, to meet what might be considered ‘best practice’ in collections management.

Figure 1. The Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum’s new heart: the cataloguing program ‘Collections Mosaic’

The Community Museums Program Handbook (Walsh and James 2008), provided to small museums from History SA, has the following to say about museum collections:

Good museum collections are those that are put together with meaning and purpose, rather than those that are created and allowed to grow in an undirected way (Walsh & James 2008:116).

This statement could be considered the idyllic model for museum collections. It seems straightforward enough: collect with purpose and do not let your collection grow without meaning. Granted, this would be ideal, however, for the small museum, this may not be so easy in reality. This could be for a number of reasons:

  • The lack of a functional cataloguing and accessioning processes.
  • The level of computer literacy required to use cataloguing programs.
  • The fear that not accepting items may alienate visitors or offend donors.
  • The lack of knowledge or understanding about historical significance.

For the small museum these factors are huge considerations because funds are limited, visitors are sporadic and many of the workers are volunteers and therefore may have varying skills and experience.

On top of all this there is also the consideration of time. This is the first of the cataloguing projects in the Masonic Centre Museum and it will hopefully not be the last, but these things take time. While volunteers are obviously dedicated to the museum, you cannot necessarily ask them to give up the mass of hours necessary to successfully catalogue an entire collection. All of these factors must be considered and balanced carefully. From my perspective this is why working on this directed study project at the Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum is so important, because it is the beginning of addressing these issues and establishing ‘best practice’ for the museum. Before long the museum will be in the best shape of its life.


Walsh, K. and A. James 2008 Community Museums Program Handbook. Retrieved 10 August 2013 from

A First at the Freemasons Hall

By Sarah-Anne Martin

This semester I have had the privilege of working on a Directed Study project with Curator Murray Olsson and the volunteers at the Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum, which can be found within the Freemasons Hall, 254 North Terrace, Adelaide. I have been volunteering on and off at the museum for well over a year now and have had some fantastic opportunities presented to me as a result. From the outset one might be forgiven for feeling somewhat intimidated by the Freemasons Hall, after all it is a very large building which belongs to what is considered to be a very exclusive and secretive group: The Freemasons. However, if you ever get the chance to take a tour of the Freemasons Hall you will see that this feeling is misplaced, as the building alone is incredible but the people are also friendly and happy to answer any questions you have about their organization.

grand lodge

Figure 1. Adelaide Freemasons Hall (Source: Freemasons South Australia and Northern Territory)

The museum, found on the ground floor of Freemasons Hall, is packed to the brim with memorabilia and artefacts from the practice of Freemasonry in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Up until recently the museum did not have an official program for cataloguing its collections, apart from excel spreadsheets, but after receiving a grant from History SA the museum has begun to embark on the colossal task of setting up its catalogue. This is where I come in. Having been the person to submit the grant and begin the process I have been set the task of cataloguing a collection under the direction of the curator Murray Olsson, and using the things I learn as a basis for future cataloging projects. This is no small feat and is a task that has been a tremendous learning opportunity for me.

My Directed Study project focuses on cataloguing the Museum’s collection of Past Masters Jewels, which consists of over 300 individual objects. The Past Masters Jewels collection provides a record of the men who have served the organization as a Master in one of the many lodges in South Australia. Each Past Masters Jewel has a unique inscription stating the name of the recipient and the date of service, providing a very clear historical record of each jewel. In addition, the collection holds jewels from as early as the late 1800s, many of which are gold, making the collection highly significant and a priority for conservation, protection and maintenance. It is certainly a privilege to be working with such an amazing collection and to gain further insight into a very historically significant organization.

pm jewels

Figure 2. A small part of the Past Masters Jewel Collection at Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum.