Friday, October 17, 2008

Tips on Documenting Antiques

Say you've spotted an antique in a museum that you would dearly love to reproduce. How do you obtain permission and, if approved, how do you go about taking measurements and photographs?

First, you need to contact the museum's curator and ask for permission. In correspondence, be polite, honest, brief, and let the curator know that you will accommodate his/her schedule.

So. Now you have permission to document measurements and photos of your beloved artifact. What do you need? How do you prepare? All you need is a ruler, tape measure, notebook, pen, and camera, right?
Yes and no.

That's all that accompanied me on my appointment with the scheitholts, and I was ill prepared....and nervous that I would take up too much of the director's time. So much so in fact, that I forgot to take the measurements of the overall length of both zithers!

This morning I heard back from the curator at the Gettysburg Military Museum, granting me permission to photograph and measure Robert E. Lee's Medicine Box (after December).

I haven't been this excited since the Christmas I unwrapped my "Space 1999" action figure set and model spaceship.

This time, I'll take a worksheet with me that lists all the parts of the cabinet that need to be measured and columns for wood/other material, width, length, height, and thickness. I'll also sketch the cabinet (it helps if you can take a snapshot before your appointment) and label the parts so I remember what each set of measurements refers to.

The other thing I'll do is not get too creative with the photos (like I did with the zithers). I'll be sure to take lateral, top & bottom, and straight on shots of each part of the cabinet. That way, if I forget to take a measurement, I can refer to the photo and use a known measurement to obtain the missing one.

Have I forgotten anything? Probably. But it's an exciting learning experience of galactic proportions.