My first several weeks working as a collection intern at the Alexander Majors House Museum have proven to be both challenging and engaging. My past public history experience has been primarily in archives and this is the first internship where I’ve been able to work with museum objects. My initial assignment was to make an inventory of the house’s objects. This has been a bit daunting, given that there are a total of fourteen rooms and hallways, each chockfull of artifacts. The ultimate goal of the internship is to catalog all objects into the museum’s database for accession.
The most common obstacle has been my lack of knowledge about Victorian period antiquities. Fortunately, I was provided with a rough list and description of each room’s objects. With the aid of my smartphone and the internet, I researched objects on the list and compared them with objects in the house. For example, after learning about the aesthetic differences between Bristol and Old Paris vases I was able to distinguish them throughout the house.
However, there have been instances where I’ve been completely baffled by an object and its purpose. For instance, there are some odd utensils in the kitchen (like the one pictured below) whose functions completely elude me. In these cases, I write the best description possible and make a note to get help identifying it later. I then take pictures of the object for later identification. Once finished, I’ll go through the house with my supervisor and reexamine those particular artifacts.
Identifying and learning about Victorian artifacts has been a rewarding experience. This knowledge will become especially useful if I plan to work at a museum dealing with this time period.
(What the heck is this??)