Saturday, 18 April 2015

Snap Happy

So you’ve heard all about the kind of conservation and cleaning jobs we do over the Winter; now to tell you about one of our other projects!

A few years ago, the National Trust set up a new online system for managing each property’s collections. The aim is to get every object within every Trust property onto this Collections Management System (CMS). Bearing in mind that the Trust has over 300 historic properties across the country, with even smaller houses such as The Hardmans’ House holding 13,000 objects, it’s a bit of a mammoth task. It’s estimated that when the inventory is completed, it will contain over 1 million items. Much of the content that has already been uploaded has been made available to the public via National Trust Collections. Simply type in your search criteria and you’ll be able to find a whole host of historic artefacts at your fingertips. From 16th century bedsteads, to early 21st century toothpaste, we’ve got it all!

Search by property name, period of history or object type

One of the most important parts of the online collections system is that each entry has a visual representation to accompany its description. Having photographs of each object allows us to identify any visible damage or signs of deterioration. If the object is particularly valuable, it can also help to create a replica if it is lost, stolen, or becomes too fragile to be on public display. For the purposes of CMS, it’s useful just to be able to have a clear view of what the object you’re looking for looks like. The Hardmans’ House has around 10,000 objects already on CMS. However, only a small fraction of those have photographs to accompany their descriptions. So this Winter, we continued the task of producing these photographs, focusing on Hardmans’ collection of children’s toys that were used to entertain his younger clients, and some other fragile plastics.

Quite fitting: Our very own photo studio

A small studio was set up in our exhibition room, with proper lighting, tripods and backdrop. With the help of some camera savvy volunteers, we began photographing and recording each object ready for them to be put on CMS. The objects had to be carefully unwrapped and positioned to show the most detail. Photographs were then taken from each angle, and the inventory number, photo number, and photo description were then recorded on a concordance sheet. Thousands of photographs later, our work is almost complete, and these delicate 1950’s toys each have a digital record of their current condition.

An adorable velvet stuffed dog

A doll in lederhosen

An electric motorcycle racing game

However, we’ve only just scratched the surface of our collection! We’re hoping that with the success of this project, we can extend it later on in the year to include other areas of the collection. If you feel like inventory photography is something you’d like to be involved with, or you’d like more information on how to get involved with some of the other work we do, then please get in touch with a member of our team. You can email us at or call us on 0151 709 6261.

Megan Thrift
Winter Conservation Volunteer
The Hardmans' House

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