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Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology

Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology

Summary

The Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology at Caboolture in Queensland is a not-for-profit incorporated association, and one of the premier fine arts and archaeological collections in Australia. Opened in 1986, the museum contains collections from the classic and ancient worlds, European prehistory, Medieval and Later Europe, Asia, the Americas, the Pacific and Aboriginal Australia.

Background

The Abbey Museum Association is the legal body that controls the museum and has 20 members. The Friends of the Abbey Museum has 106 members. Over 50 staff work at the Museum, with 5.4 FTE paid staff working with volunteers. The staff are spread over 8 teams - Office, Marketing, Education, Collection, Events, Sewing, Grounds and Store.

Community Engagement and Partnerships

Annually over 12,000 people visit the Abbey Museum, with the Museum open 10.00am to 4.00pm Monday through to Saturday. This includes over 4,000 students who participate in educational programs developed and conducted by the Museum. The Museum also hosts The Abbey Medieval Festival annually, which attracts over 24,000 people each year. Other events include a Regency Picnic, a Medieval Christmas Gregorian chant recital, public lectures and children’s holiday programs. In total about 36,000 people visit or are involved with the Museum’s activities annually.  

The Abbey Museum works with community partners, including Moreton Bay Region Industry and Tourism (MBRIT), the Moreton Bay Regional Council (MBRC) and North Harbour. The Museum is currently working with research partners: the RD Milns Antiquities Museum at University of Queensland, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem on a project to document cuneiform tablets in Australia and New Zealand, the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne in relation to Roman lamps, and the University of New England study of stone tools.

Collection

The collection comprises 5000 artefacts spanning 500,000 years of history from the prehistoric age through to the end of the 19th century.

All artefacts are registered on acquisition with the basic information recorded i.e. registration number, culture code, title, brief description, date, acquired from, current location. This information is recorded in a spreadsheet. This basic record is then captured in the collections management system, AdLib. Information in AdLib is expanded as research proceeds. To date, 1000 items have been comprehensively researched, and 65% of the collection has been photographed.

Software

The Collection Management Team use Microsoft Excel to register all artefacts into the Collections Register. A print copy of the Register is generated from this.  Detailed Catalogue information is stored in the Adlib Collection Management System, which was chosen through a software selection process. At the time, AdLib was identified as the best fit for our needs and budget.

Once the artefacts are photographed, the high-resolution images are stored on a network drive. A controlled file-naming convention is used for the image directories and files. It is this naming convention that allows us to browse for images. Multi-view copies of images are used in the Collection Management system (AdLib). Images are also used for marketing and promotion, to accompany loans, for research and for publications.

Hardware

For capturing images, the Abbey Museum uses a camera with four photographic lights. Adobe Photoshop is used for processing and deep etching the files before saving them in both Photoshop and jpg formats. An external hard dual drive server is used for storage back up, together with the client server network.

Digital Access

The Abbey Museum currently does not offer online access to its collection. The website describes the collection. Blogs present highlights of the collection. Images are sent to research partners for reference.

Challenges

The Abbey Museum has been presented with a number of challenges in digitising its collection.

Although the Collection Management Team has reasonable technical expertise, the Museum’s limited financial resources determine the technical infrastructure.

The Abbey Museum is keen to provide online access to their collection however there are two issues. The Museum’s satellite internet connection has limitations of bandwidth and download/upload quotas which restricts the ability to use online options and Cloud storage for collection management. In addition there is no dedicated Web Manager so the Museum website is built using WordPress to enable it to be easily managed by office staff. The Museum is currently exploring options for online access to the collection within these constraints.

In the current environment images are stored on the network server with careful naming of files and folders to allow for browsing. Image management software with the facility for allocating metadata and searching capability would be very useful.

Opportunities

The Abbey Museum recognises that digitising is a necessary part of modern museum practice. It allows for efficient information management practices. As a result they have a searchable collection register and the ability to share documented, referenced research both within the Collection Management Team and with research partners.

High resolution images of artefacts are used by Collection Management staff and research partners to examine details of artefacts without the need for handling them. Images are also available for publication and provide a visual record of artefacts for preservation, conservation and security purposes.

Contact Details

If you would like more information on the work the Abbey Museum is undertaking, please contact either the Director, Edith Cuffe or the Registrar Jan Nargar.