Photographing the Collections at the Museum of the Order of St John

Posted May 16, 2016 11:46 am by Rosie Weetch under Impact Project updates Volunteering

Photographing part of a model of the Holy Sepulchre.

Photographing part of a model of the Holy Sepulchre.

One of the key outcomes for the Bearers of the Cross project is to create an online resource which details the medieval objects held in the collection at the Museum of the Order of St John. This resource is hosted on this website, and you can begin to explore it HERE (although note that we are continually updating and adding to it, so check back regularly).

We always knew that photographs of the objects would be an important part of this online resource, but an early survey we did of potential users indicated that it was highly desirable that these images were of publication quality and would be free to use. We took this on board and hired Dickon Whitewood to join the project team as our inventory officer. Dickon is very experienced in photographing museum objects having previously worked at the British Museum photographing and documenting their massive collection of medieval seals. Although only with us for a short time Dickon has taken over 2,000 photographs, from coins to wooden models, from gold rings to chunks of masonry, and his wonderful images can be found throughout this website.

Museum staff and volunteers attend a session on how to take photographs of Museum objects.

Museum staff and volunteers attend a session on how to take photographs of Museum objects.

Before Dickon left the project we wanted to make sure his skills were passed on to the museum’s staff and volunteers so that they could continue the job of photographing the whole collection (which contains around 60,000 objects) to a high standard. We arranged a photography workshop where we covered all aspects of photographing museum objects, looking at the process from start to finish. Dickon talked us through the¬†camera settings, lighting, how to take into account the handling requirements of each object (especially if fragile), the use of scale bars, and editing the pictures. This sessions has equipped the museum with the necessary skills to fully document its varied collection and is just one of the ways we hope the Bearers of the Cross project will benefit the Museum of the Order of St John in the long run.

Dickon photographs a tile.

Dickon photographs a tile.

A final piece of good news is that all the images we have created for this project are free to use for anyone who wants to (please see our full terms of use for details) so spread the word!

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