West Midlands Regional Geology Stewardship is a three-year project administrated by Stoke-on-Trent Museums. The project aims to develop and strengthen the stewardship of Natural Science collections across the West Midlands region, with particular emphasis on geology collections. The project is currently supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, who provided a grant to cover the bulk of salary costs, with an additional grant from the Geologists’ Association Curry Fund for materials and equipment for the conservation of collections that are at risk of deterioration.
The Regional Geology Stewardship project began in 2009, initially building on a two-year traineeship as part of a postgraduate Heritage Management Masters degree, completed by Vicky Tunstall. Between 2009 and 2011, Vicky visited more than 20 institutions in the West Midlands region, assessing the content and state of the geology collections and offering advice and on-site training to more than 30 members of staff and volunteers charged with caring for collections of geological specimens. The project has focused on providing stewardship and support to those organisations that do not have a dedicated geology or natural science specialist on staff.
Holly Sievwright took over Vicky’s role in January 2012, gathering further information about the distribution and condition of geology collections in the region and continuing work to assess, advise and assist with the curation of collections in need of care.
Generally, work with organisations involved in the project consists of:
- An initial visit to view the geology collection and meet with staff or volunteers on site. At this time, the content and condition of the collection can be assessed, looking into what potential this has, the significance/relevance of the collection and what staff may wish to know about it.
- A second visit to include curatorial work and on-site training with regard to caring for and using your geology collection for any staff who have contact with collections. This would extend beyond the curatorial staff to include, for example, members of an education team and volunteers. The more familiar and confident staff are with geology collections, the more opportunities are available to open up this type of collection to visitors.
- Producing a benchmark assessment of the collection, focusing on the geology collections. This is based on the overall Collections Care Health Check service offered by Jane Thompson Webb of Birmingham Museums Service, addressing how collections might be at risk from agents of decay. The report provides a written list of priorities and advice that staff can put into practice. It may also be useful as evidence for potential funding bodies or to support accreditation.
- Providing an Advice Pack aimed at helping non-geologists with identifying geology specimens, how to care for and store geological material, ideas for using the collection and where to get help.
Examples of work supported by the Regional Geology project
An advice pack was created with the aim of providing non-specialists with a comprehensive overview of what to do with geology collections. The pack was designed so that anyone who works with the geology collection could gain confidence and feel as though they could open up more of the collection, while knowing where to seek advice if necessary.
There are several excellent publications available which deal specifically with geological collections, yet perhaps those who really would like a helping hand do not know where to start. Another aim of our advice pack is therefore to bridge this knowledge gap by recommending good literature, sharing best practice and ensuring that those who need it know where to seek help and advice on managing their geology collections.
The Regional Geology project was completed in December 2013. The final report for the project can be accessed here.
Results of the project with details about the current state of geological collections across the region were published in the Geological Curator in October 2013.
Sievwright, H. 2013. The state and status of geological collections in the West Midlands and recent work to improve collections care. The Geological Curator 9(9): 459 – 475.
Holly Sievwright Assistant Collections Officer (Regional Geology)
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Bethesda Street, Cultural Quarter, Hanley
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 3DW
t 01782 232539
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