Claire – Collections Manager
What attracted you to working at the Navy Museum?
When I joined the Navy Museum it was expanding and transitioning into a professionally-run Museum. It was just me in collections and I pretty much had free hand to shape its future direction. It was a chance to develop the collection and put effective policies, procedures and standards in place. We’ve come an awfully long way since then – which is something I need to remind myself when I look at how far we still have to go.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
We have a great collections team whom I enjoy spending time with. We have a lot of fun together that includes singing work-themed song adaptations such as ‘When I saw you at Bellona’ (Verona), ‘You say you want a Resolution’ (Revolution), “Hinau, Hinau don’t dream it’s over’, ‘My Ngapona’ (My Sharona), ‘Leaking in the ceiling’ (Dancing on the ceiling), ‘Let’s all meet up in Jpeg2000’ (Disco 2000), and the lunchtime classics: ‘It’s sandwich time’ (Business time), and ‘Four scones in one day’ (Four seasons in one day).
What do you enjoy least?
Saying no – which is a major part of my job! In collections we are constantly balancing the risks associated with displaying or lending objects (deterioration, damage, loss) with the need to allow access. It can be hard to explain to people why they can’t just borrow a model ship or piece of silverware, transport it in the back of their car, and then use it as a table centrepiece for a dinner! We also turn down a lot of donation offers as they don’t fit our collecting criteria. It may seem heartless when these are treasured mementos, but we just can’t collect and care for everything.
Name your favourite object in the Museum and explain why you chose it?
I love the photo of PO Terry Hutchins and his wife, Violet they look so young and in love. It’s a terribly sad story knowing that Terry dies of acute appendicitis during the war. We have the telegram Violet received with the news of his death as well as several condolence letters from crew mates. It’s heart-breaking to contemplate her loss – she never married again.
What’s the most memorable thing you have done since being at the Museum?
in 2001 we relocated our collection store. It was a real project management challenge – planning our new space, ensuring we had the logistics right, and then packing, moving and keeping track of the thousands of objects we moved. It also came right on top of moving out of the old Museum at Spring Street and then opening the new Museum at Torpedo Bay. It was quite stressful at times but for a Collection Manager a store relocation is a definitive career experience.
Name the funniest moment since you joined the Museum.
We used to play a lot of pranks with our mannequin named Vernon. He is a bit creepy looking and we took great delight in hiding him and trying to scare each other. We once hid him in the collection store lift and, by some pretence, got Rose (a conservator who was working on a collection project at the time) to open the lift doors. She let out an almighty scream at the top of her lungs! I was on the phone at the time and had to assure the person at the other end that no one was being murdered!
How do you enjoy spending your time outside work?
Watching cricket, watching my kids play cricket, playing cricket myself! I also love crafts and sewing. I enjoy travelling (when I have the money and time) and photography.
Images L-R: Claire numbering an artefact, Terry and Violet Hutchins c1940 (2006.749.37.32), Terry’s Ditty Box containing prized possessions.