Since early June this year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a wonderful group of volunteers on a curatorial project improving the documentation and packaging of the medieval floor tile at Amgueddfa Cymru-Museum Wales. The team comprises 3 volunteers: Jennifer, Sally and Richard. A further volunteer joined us at the start of the project, and they will rejoin us once they have completed a summer work placement in the US.
The Museum has a collection of over 1000 fragments of medieval floor tile from many sites across Wales, (mainly from castle or abbey sites). Some were acquired by the Museum over 100 years ago, providing an interesting insight into earlier museum collecting practices.
The collection is housed in large plastic trays stored in cupboards and are grouped by site. Each tray has a unique number, with each tile fragment within it being linked to the drawer on our database, an essential tool for managing our collections.
The project runs an afternoon a week, with the volunteers working diligently, checking each tile fragment against database lists and publications (mainly 'The Medieval Tiles of Wales' by John M. Lewis). The aim of the project is to weed out any documentation errors that may have occurred in the past, as well improving the packaging of the trays. Once a tray is complete, it is wiped clean and relined with a clean sheet of plastazote before the tiles are placed back in and the tray returned to its shelf. During this time, my job is to move trays to and from the workspace (some are really heavy!), being on hand to deal with any queries arising as well as updating database records as we go.
During the project, the volunteers have noted when trays are overcrowded, when tiles have been sampled for analysis and if any require marking with an accession number.
Over the past few weeks we've noticed how easy it is for tiles to end up in the wrong drawer! It has been really satisfying to return these tile fragments to their correct drawer.
The project also helped highlight old data entry errors, where the wrong group or catalogue number has been attached to a record, making the visual check against the catalogue a very worthwhile task.
We have now reached the end of the initial checking and repackaging stage so my mind is moving the next phase, where we will begin marking tile with accession numbers and thin out any over-crowded trays.