From Marcus Willis’ Wimbledon debut and the first ever Wheelchair Singles event to Andy Murray’s momentous victory, this year’s Championships were a real treat. But how do you capture these moments in a museum? This month’s Collections Blog post explains all the hard work that goes into collecting during The Championships....
The past couple of weeks have been a busy time for us here at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. While the tennis may have wound down, the Collections Team have been busy processing everything that we have collected during The Championships 2016.
Contemporary collecting at Wimbledon
Collecting at The Championships began in 2000, with the museum collecting everything it possibly could from players, spectators, the Queue and the Club. As you can imagine, our store room got pretty full, pretty quickly. So, over the past few years we have sought to target the gaps in our collection, as well as focus on objects that tell the main stories of the Fortnight.
This means the team has to be on the ball, checking newspaper headlines and keeping up to date with what is going on around the site. It also means scouring The Queue and the grounds regularly, keeping an eye out for any interesting fan memorabilia or official supplier merchandise. We managed to collect some quirky and interesting objects by casting our hawk-eye over every nook and cranny of the All England Club grounds, including some tennis ball inspired burger skewers, the t-shirt worn by the staff of returning Official Supplier, Häagen-Dazs, and last but not least, the outfit worn by none other than ‘Strawberry Man’.
Using our contacts in different departments is also crucial. This year The AELTC donated a Royal Box bag, along with menus for various restaurants. The Commercial Department very kindly gave us Umpire, Ball Boy and Boy Girl outfits complete with all the accessories they wore. And of course, we could not live without the Dressing Room staff, who are instrumental in asking players to kindly donate their outfits to us.
We now regularly collect the Singles Champions’ outfits, along with a range of other player’s outfits. This year we were lucky enough to welcome kit from Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Gordon Reid, Jiske Griffioen, Milos Raonic, Heather Watson, Henri Kontinen, Aniek van Koot, Shuai Zhang and Roberta Vinci.
So what happens when we finish collecting?
Firstly, each object is given a unique number that belongs to that item alone, which we record on a spreadsheet, along with provenance information. Then, we enter it onto the Museum’s collections database known as ‘Vernon’. This record will contain a brief description of the object’s characteristics, a condition report, its measurements and its location within the store. Afterwards we photograph and label the object to make sure it can be identified easily, before storing it safely away.
Next comes the hard task of deciding what goes into our Recent Championships Showcase, which we update after each Championships. We try to reflect the Fortnight’s most memorable moments and we have been spoilt for choice this year! In the end, we decided to display some Häagen-Dazs merchandise, a ticket and Order of Play from Middle Sunday, the ‘Strawberry Man’ costume and a roll of stickers, given out to hardy queuers who stuck out the rain; a nod to this year’s unfortunate weather.
Our outfit choices include Marcus Willis’ kit and Shuai Zhang’s ‘Nike Nightie’, which proved a popular outfit choice for many players. We also chose to display Gordon Reid’s t-shirt, along with the coin used in the coin toss at the first ever Wimbledon Ladies’ Wheelchair Singles match. Last but not least, Andy and Serena’s Singles outfits have of course gone in the showcase, completing our snapshot of Wimbledon 2016.
What would you have collected during this year’s Championships? Tweet @wimbledon with your thoughts.
Interested in reading more about contemporary collecting at Wimbledon? Look up Nazeea Elahi and Sarah Kirkham’s, ‘Keeping Ahead of the Game: Contemporary Collecting at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum’ in Social History in Museums (Spring 2015).