Skip to main content

Hitting 30K

By Charlotte Burford

7th May 2021

Littlehampton Pier 1920s

Littlehampton Pier c 1910-1920. One of many photographs catalogued as part of the Documentation Project.

In 2019 here at the Museum we embarked on an ambitious project to complete a full inventory of the collection and add more information to our digital database. For years the Museum has mostly used old fashioned index cards and it was time to make the leap into the digital world. The majority of the items we needed to catalogue were kept in store and are rarely seen by the public, so going through the process of cataloguing has been a little bit like treasure hunting. This year in March we celebrated cataloguing our 30,000th item and with that the project came to a close. After a long and very strange year, I have been reflecting on some of my favourite moments of the project. I have been feeling proud that we have overcome huge challenges along the way and I am looking to the future and thinking about what’s next for Littlehampton Museum.

Cataloguing during COVID

Normally cataloguing is something which requires having the object in front of you, but when COVID- 19 hit we had to work from home for the first time. Luckily we had prepared ourselves for lockdown by scanning documents and photographs from the collection and we started to experiment with cataloguing these items at home. At first it felt strange and it was slow not having direct access to our systems, but with time we were able to fine tune the process and now we have a number of volunteers cataloguing our photograph collection, all from the comfort of their own homes. The pandemic forced us to try something new and the work done by volunteers successfully contributed to us still finishing the project on time and ensured we met our targets.

Finding treasure

One of the exciting parts of the project, for me, has been really getting to know the history of Littlehampton through the collection. I was new to Littlehampton in 2019 and the project has meant I’ve become familiar with names, places, faces and events in time that I might otherwise have never known about. My favourite thing to catalogue was newspapers, I love seeing old headlines and reading 1950’s articles about summers on the beach and the pictures are fantastic. One day I was cataloguing a collection of newspapers from the 1960s and I came across a photograph of an RAF Helicopter from Tangmere rescuing someone from the sea around Littlehampton. My grandfather had been a winchman for the RAF search and rescue and was based at Tangmere at that time so there is every possibility that the Winchman in the photograph is my grandfather. It was a wonderful personal connection and my family believes that it is him, although we will never know for sure. It was like finding treasure, a little jewel of my family history buried in an archive.

Future projects

The Project has shown us that we still have more work to do. Now we have made excellent progress in cataloguing the collection we are aiming to get the project online so that it is accessible to all. Having the collection online would allow members of the community to search the collection from home, do research or even create their own mini exhibitions all on our website. We could even create virtual objects for schools to use. To fund this work we will making grant applications to external funders, but in the mean time we will be adding items to the collections page on our website and we will be using more of the stored collections in exhibitions and displays.

After the past year our volunteers and staff cannot wait to start welcoming back visitors to the Museum, we can’t wait to see you all!

a 1960s copy of the Littlehampton Gazette showing an article about a sea rescue in Littlehampton

Photographs ready to be catalogued

Store room at Littlehampton Museum showing boxes of files