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Inside the Museum: Objects, glorious objects!

The 1957 cruet set and an Edwardian cup and saucer
by Caroline Hamson
Monday 8 April 2013

Inside the Museum is a new blog from the Museum cataloguers, whose task it is to order and organise the Wimbledon Museum's vast and ever-growing collection. Read on to find out about what they've discovered this month...

Tennis memorabilia has been amassed by the Museum since the 1970s and the collection is constantly growing.  When objects come into the Museum’s collection they must be catalogued which means assembling all primary information about an object; what it is, where it came from, where it is stored.  Making objects accessible to Museum staff and the public is the principle aim.  The Museum adheres to the Museums Association’s definition that

Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment.  They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society’ (Museums Association 2013).

The newly established cataloguing team at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum has been set the task of dealing with the backlog of objects in the collection awaiting cataloguing.

The team are currently working on cataloguing the ceramics in the collection.  We had a training session with Ceramics Conservator Amanda Barnes who told us about techniques and materials and taught us the art of numbering ceramics with paint and paintbrush.  The Cataloguers then set about identifying, describing and measuring the objects which range from figurines to tankards, ashtrays to matchbox holders, all with a tennis theme.  Then came the cleaning; trained by the Museum’s Conservator Shelley Blake, objects have been carefully cleaned and now resemble something of their former selves!  The final stage of cataloguing is photographing the objects and with our newly created Photographic Studio the team has been in full flow. 

To date we have catalogued 217 ceramics, cleaned 112, photographed 143 and physically numbered 133!  This is an amazing achievement in just eight weeks!  Here are a couple of our favourite things.....

“My favourite ceramic piece is the small 1957 cruet set. The set consists of a salt pot in the shape of a boy holding a small tennis racket and ball, wearing tennis whites, and a large pepper pot in the shape of a yellow tennis ball. Both sit on top of two large tennis rackets parallel to each other. This is my favourite as it is different and quirky compared to other domestic pieces in the collection.”  Sarah Kirkham (Cataloguing Assistant)

“My favourite objects in the Museum’s ceramics collection are an Edwardian cup and saucer with a hand-painted design depicting two cats, a fox and a mouse, dressed in colourful clothing, playing a game of lawn tennis.  These were manufactured in England, circa 1905. In addition to the decorative qualities, the way the animals in the design take on human characteristics reflect the destabilising boundaries between human and animal that had developed in the Victorian era following the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. The cup and saucer can be viewed as an example of how Darwin’s ideas had, by the Edwardian era, changed perceptions to make the human more animal and the animal more human.” Malin Lundin (Cataloguing Assistant)

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