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The Great Hands on Base Audit

Learning Assistant Siobhan Brown fills us in on the mammoth task of the annual Handling collection audit.

At the Horniman we have a fantastic, 3,000 object-strong Handling collection. We use the Handling collection in all our Learning programmes: with school groups learning about a huge range of topics, families visiting us on the weekends, community groups visiting the Horniman together, and with young people on our Youth Panel.

  • B_HandsOnBase__002-PS, The Handling collection includes 3000 objects that you can interact with
    The Handling collection includes 3000 objects that you can interact with

The Learning Team have collective responsibility for the collection. The whole team clean the Hands on Base, the home of the Handling collection, four times a year and get together monthly to repair objects and update displays.

A major event in the Learning Team calendar is the annual Handling collection audit, which takes place at the start of January. This year, with the help of our colleagues from the Collections Management team, we checked all the objects in a record-breaking two and a half days.

We work in pairs to take each object from its location, check it against the record on our collections management system, and then record anything we need to know about its condition.

Anything that is where it shouldn’t be is put on the orange tables in the Hands on Base, and at the end of the audit we put our heads together to figure out where they need to be.

We also take photographs of all the cases to help us put everything back in the right place for the year to come.

  • Shayna and Vikki, Schools Learning Officer Shayna and Volunteering Administrator Vikki hard at work
    Schools Learning Officer Shayna and Volunteering Administrator Vikki hard at work

Though most of the objects are in the Hands on Base, some are stored elsewhere. A particularly fun task undertaken by Schools Learning Officer Lucy and I, was auditing the objects in the freezer, which is kept in an unheated room, on what was one of the coldest days of the year.

Putting 52 chopsticks in the correct order or identifying 24 wood samples that all look pretty much the same, might sound like the sort of tedium you would hate to kick the year off with. But it’s a great time to get together as a team, rediscover our favourite old objects and share knowledge about new ones, all while eating the leftover Christmas chocolates.

  • Lucy (1), Schools Learning Officer Lucy updates object records.
    Schools Learning Officer Lucy updates object records.

Keep an eye out on the blog this year for more on the Handling Collection and some of our favourite objects.