laura bryer

As part of my Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA at Manchester University I undertook a twenty day placement at the Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives. The placement advertised was to:

‘The museum is due to receive MIMSY XG in the next month or so, this will allow us to electronically catalogue our objects in a much more efficient way. We would like students to help us build this catalogue from scratch and assist us with collections management and storage.’

I was interested in this particular placement as I had never worked on a major cataloguing project before or with the MIMSY XG software. Whilst the museum was waiting for the software to arrive I was given other tasks to perform.

All of these tasks where centred around museum ethics and GMPM’s Accreditation application. One of the tasks I carried out included helping develop a Learning and Access Policy to be handed in with the museum’s Accreditation application. This was a daunting task as I knew how important the document was for the museum. One of the problems I encountered with this particular task was that I could not find any official guides from museum bodies such as the Museums Association. However I overcame this by finding a number of example policies to study from other Accredited museums.

Another duty I carried out at GMPM was researching the possibility of object disposal. GMPM’s current collection falls into three groups: objects, archives and images. Their current collecting remit is items that relate to policing in Greater Manchester. However, the museum has in its collection nine hundred plus items associated with international policing from all over the world. Objects clearly outside of their collecting policy. As a result the museum was looking into disposing of these objects and it was my task to research the most ethical approach to this.

Both of these research tasks have equipped me with knowledge regarding the ethical operation of this museum and museums in general. As researching these two meant taking into account the ethical guidelines

My final and perhaps most important duty carried out at GMPM was the advertised task of helping transfer the museums catalogue to the electronic MIMSY database.

Before the cataloguing of the collection was to begin, myself and the museum staff where debriefed by the MIMSY company about how to use the system. After this the staff at GMPM went through the process again with me in order to minimise mistakes. The cataloguing of the objects began with the archival material. In documenting the items I had to include the objects provenance, condition and location. As I was new to the cataloguing process using MIMSY, I inevitably made a few mistakes. These mostly involved missing out various bits of information. Fortunately the staff where monitoring this and went through the mistakes with me. Once a sufficient amount of experience was gained I was able to catalogue the items much more quickly and effectively. This was due to the fact that I became much more comfortable using MIMSY, and so was able to use the system more efficiently and with no more mistakes. In addition I became more confident in my object descriptions. I also had the opportunity to formally accession an object into the museums collection, this was a twentieth-century police charge book. Overall these processes made me realise that although a museum practitioner may have the best intentions ethically speaking, they can cause problems for the institution they are operating through accidental unintentional mistakes similar to the ones I made at the beginning of this task, suggesting that museum staff have to work together to ensure the best practice is carried out within the museum.