Another important aspect of the work we undertake at the museum is Image Digitisation. This is an important aspect of our Collection Management strategy, forming part of an integrated approach to developing and caring for our collections. Digitising our collections helps in the creation of information about them and enables the public to access, use and learn from them.
There are three main areas of operations that digitisation plays an integral part in. These are:
Currently Cork Public Museum’s collections are composed of approximately 50,000 individual items but this number is always growing. The collections consist of a variety of object-types created in and from a multiplicity of substances/materials and presented in a range of mediums. To date, about 19,000 items have been digitised.
Every object-type has its own unique properties and necessitates different approaches to digitising them. Documents, for example, can be laid flat and be photographed from above or they can be carefully scanned in a suitable scanner. On the other hand, greater consideration needs to be given to lighting and backdrop when photographing larger objects. All images are usually processed and edited to ensure the best possible outcome.
The photographing of our collections also helps prevent the over-handling of objects. When certain objects were needed in the past for research purposes, the object(s) were removed from storage, presented to the researcher and then returned to storage after he/she were finished. This left the objects open to potential damage from human carelessness or mishandling. High resolution images now allow the same research to take place but without the need to move the actual object around the museum.
We feel that the digitisation of the collection is one of the more important processes that we undertake here at CPM. Though we will continue to produce events and exhibitions in the museum, we will never be in a position to put everything on display. Therefore, bringing our collections online is an important step for us as we firmly believe the future of consuming collections lies with both our website and social media platforms.
Looking ahead, the aim of the museum and its digitalisation policy is to make our ever- growing collections more accessible, while maintaining their integrity with best practice.
Dara McGrath is Digital Officer at Cork Public Museum.