Caring For the Army Museum’s Military Artefacts
Have you ever wondered what happens to all the treasures that are not on display at the museum?
The National Army Museum has a vast collection of national treasures and military artefacts, and it is the staff’s job to ensure these precious items are looked after for the benefit of future generations. Marie Rapley is the museum’s Collections Technician and she plays a vital role in ensuring the museum’s military artefacts and war memorabilia are well cared for and housed in the best possible conditions.
The National Army Museum’s collection of national treasures is divided into six areas, including heraldry, textiles, weapons, technology (including vehicles), social history, and accoutrements. Each of these areas has an Assistant Curator responsible for the items in that collection. Marie’s job is to work on specific projects across all the collections. Over the last few years she has re-housed over 2000 artefacts, including everything from compasses to bear skin hats, and cutlery to sweetheart badges. Currently she is working with the museum’s collection of embroidered souvenirs.
The museum has a diverse collection of over 200 embroidered souvenirs, mostly from World War I and World War II. Many of these were purchased by soldiers overseas as gifts to send home to loved ones. Textile souvenirs from Egypt were sold in bazaars, and some are distinctly Egyptian while others were made to order and often have personal messages together with military themes, such as unit badges or colours.
Marie began this project by creating an inventory of the collection ensuring each artefact had its own accession number and record on the museum’s collection database, Vernon.
Next, each artefact had to be catalogued. This included carefully and accurately describing each artefact – including its size and the materials it is made of. This stage usually involves further research.
The next important stage is creating a condition report detailing the state the artefact is in. It is important to identify how fragile it is and what extra care might need to be taken with its storage.
A photograph is then taken of each artefact and this is attached to the updated Vernon record. This will minimise the need to handle the artefact in the future, and makes selecting artefacts for exhibitions quicker and easier.
How an artefact is stored is important for ensuring it will survive for years to come. Museum best practice is followed wherever possible. This includes the use of museum standard packaging, such as acid-free tissue and card. Sometimes this includes boxes or mounts individually made to suit each artefact’s requirements.
You can support the National Army Museum collection by becoming a Friend of the Museum. As a Registered Charitable Trust we depend on your generosity.
Check out our Blog for the stories behind some of our other interesting museum artefacts.