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Disseminating quality controlled scientific knowledge

A hidden history

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Author(s): Emily Peppers

Journal: University Museums and Collections Journal
ISSN 2071-7229

Volume: 1;
Start page: 23;
Date: 2008;
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ABSTRACT
The Cultural Collections Audit project began at the University of Edinburgh in 2004, searching for hidden treasures in its 'distributed heritage collections' across the university. The objects and collections recorded in the Audit ranged widely from fine art and furniture to historical scientific and teaching equipment and personalia relating to key figures in the university's long tradition of academic excellence. This information was gathered in order to create a central database of information, to identify objects in vulnerable or dangerous situations, to identify items that require conservation, and for insurance purposes. The response of colleagues in all areas of the university has been overwhelmingly positive. The Audit has proved successful in raising awareness of collections and collections issues both within the university and with the national media, instilling a sense of pride among non-museums university staff who have tirelessly safeguarded these heritage collections despite ongoing pressure to downsize. The Audit highlighted a number of issues in the university's non-formal collections including environmental conditions, departmental relocations, object conditions, security, insurance, storage and long-term preservation. With the positive support and specialist knowledge of established contacts in every department of the university, the Audit worked to bring these collections and issues to light by acting as a resource for information, identifying vulnerable items and challenge areas, and by celebrating the university's rich object history through an online website dedicated to the Audit. This paper details the challenges identified by the Cultural Audit, and gives examples of positive solutions that enable preservation while promoting pride in academic excellence and innovation.
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