Our new Collections Manager reflects on his first weeks in the role.

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be appointed as Collections Manager here at the Mountain Heritage Trust and I began work at the beginning of July.  Since that time, and with the help of Trustees, Patrons and former members of staff, I’ve been gaining some basic familiarity with the collections (which include archives, artefacts and printed material), with the office and archive stores, and slowly but surely with the MHT’s systems as well.  

At the same time as this I am also doing my best to read around the subject of British mountaineering and climbing.  Although very much at home in the British countryside, I’m a walker rather than a climber and my initial specific subject knowledge is not that strong.  I do however already have good experience of working successfully as an archivist in areas – documentary photography, and twentieth century British sculpture – with which I had no previous direct knowledge.  In relation to this point, if blog readers can recommend any good, and broadly ‘introductory’, mountaineering reading material then do please let me know.  

archive store site 1

Once I have developed my knowledge, I will be starting to catalogue some of our collections, thereby opening them up to a much wider variety of potential uses and users.  I will also be working my way through accessioning the backlog of items donated to us during the times we have been effectively closed, firstly because of the pandemic and subsequently because of staff absence.  To aid me in the cataloguing process I am spending time looking at some of our established and fully catalogued collections, like the Sir Chris Bonnington Archive, so I can gain familiarity with the cataloguing methodology.

Over time I want to talk to as many stakeholders (actual and potential) as possible – people who have used our archives or who have interacted with the MHT in any way, or have wanted to.  Finding out what people liked, what people didn’t, and what people might expect of us in the future can only help us to develop the service positively.

archive store site 2

One thing I don’t think I will ever get used to is surely one of the best office window views available (with nesting martins, and leverets as a wonderful added bonus).  I’m so looking forward to finding out how this view, and the essential work of the MHT, develops over the seasons.

Office view

We look forward to gradually reopening our collections to the public again in the months ahead.  Please keep following the blog and our social media for further news about this and of our exciting plans for the future.

If you want to contact us here at the MHT please do write to enquiries@mountain-heritage.org, or call us on +44 (0)1768 779911.  

David Johnston-Smith

Collections Manager

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