15 Mar 2021

Volunteering During Lockdown

My name is Rachel, and I have been volunteering with Birmingham Museum Trust for three years. I thought I would use this blog to write about my current volunteering experience during lockdown with the online volunteering Accession Registers Project, led by Misaho Washizu (Documentation Registrar).

The purpose of this project is to transcribe the accession registers into an editable format. By doing this it should be easier for all staff to access entries. The accession registers hold information for all objects within Birmingham’s collection including all manner of objects from paintings to weapons, statues to clothing. It is interesting to discover what the museum cares for. The entry descriptions reveal key details about a piece such as creation date, date of purchase, acquisition or donation, artist’s name and the format of the piece.

Accession Registers

We are sent images of one or two pages of the register to transcribe onto an Excel document. All the information which is listed must be put down, even written annotations and markings. These are put into a separate column called additional written notes alongside the column for the original entry. Deciphering the hand-written notes can be tricky but we are able to ask for help from Misaho or an assigned volunteer partner, who checks over the work before it is sent back to Misaho, to put on the final database.

A positive of this volunteering role, is that we get to complete the work in our own time. I tend to complete the work in one sitting. This is largely personal preference, since I do not like to leave a task incomplete. I usually complete the work on the weekend since I work during the week. I go to a quiet space, put on some music (usually Bastille) and work for a few hours until complete. I double check over the work as I go for any errors, wrong punctuation or spelling mistakes. There are often a few errors due to mistyping, but these are easy enough to amend.

I have really enjoyed being a part of this volunteering team during lockdown. It has been good to have an activity with a positive purpose to contribute to. I would like to thank the team for this opportunity as I have loved the chance to discover what objects the museum holds and contribute towards a project which will be beneficial for so many people in the long term.