In Which We Learn What Sue Does on Thursday Mornings

A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting of the Friends of Shrewsbury’s Borough Museums. (A group about to get a name-simplification, as we’re no longer a borough these days, but that’s beside the point.) This meeting was an update on the progress of our eagerly awaited museum-to-be. This is the careful conversion of the old Music Hall in the Square into a place which not only provides much more space to display our treasures than the present museum, but reveals and incorporates the old buildings that were hidden inside the Music Hall complex: a medieval mansion and a fine Georgian assembly room among them.

The new museum is still two years away, but the staff at the old museum are engaged in the massive task of documenting all its stored pieces in preparation for the move. At the Friends meeting they appealed for more volunteers to help with this. As I’m only working part-time at present, I thought it was about time I got involved. So I offered my services, went to a preliminary meeting where everything was explained, and a couple of weeks later I spent my first morning in the attics of Rowley’s House (the present museum – which is still open for business, folks, and worth a look around). That first time I was unwrapping and re-wrapping swords and pieces of armour, cudgels, billhooks and a broken set of stocks. The next week, the rusty metal and wood gave way to a box of Roman bone objects – mostly hair pins, with a smattering of counters and some bits of metal keys and one very fine spindle-whorl. Everything has to have  its new number, its old numbers, its description, condition and some other essential facts recorded onto a catalogue sheet. Its photograph is taken for the record, and then it is carefully returned to the store.

Roman remains

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on the next stage of the job instead. Sitting in an office at a computer, inputting records off the catalogue sheets into the new main database in conjunction with any further information about the items that I can find on an existing database of the Roman collection. There’s a lot of Roman material in the museum attics – a remarkable amount. The vast majority of it comes from excavations and finds at Wroxeter, the old Roman city of Viroconium, a few miles outside of Shrewsbury.

The database work is a little too like my day job to be quite as interesting as the cataloguing stage. But it needs to be done, and if there is no other volunteer there to work with (cataloguing is a two-person job), I’m happy to help by tapping a keyboard instead. I get to read about the items and see the pictures, and I’m learning a lot. Maybe next week I can get back to the thrill of unwrapping more forgotten treasures in the attic. Thursday mornings are fun.

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4 Responses to “In Which We Learn What Sue Does on Thursday Mornings”

  1. Well done you for helping out! I think I’d prefer the unwrapping stage too.

  2. suetortoise Says:

    The ‘helping’ side is more than balanced by the chance to nosey parker into all the stuff behind the scenes – oh and I get to do it all in a lovely old Tudor mansion, too!

  3. Do you remember that series of books, more like fat leaflets, that covered The Iron Age or The Roman Occupation or The Vikings and comprised little more than pages of meticulous pen-line drawings of archaeological finds?
    We must have been very pushed for entertainment when I was a lad because I must have spent hours browsing those illustrations of shield-bosses and spear-tips and period costume, never really appreciating the demanding discipline of the museum illustrator.

  4. suetortoise Says:

    Yes, I do remember those – I think they were in the school bookshelves rather than at home, so I didn’t get to know them intimately.

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