Hidden Treasures: Conducting an Inventory at Point Ellice House

Christeah Dupont, Curatorial Assistant

As Point Ellice House undertakes its annual closure and visitor footsteps are no longer being heard creaking through the halls, one might think that the house sits quiet and empty until re-opening on the Family Day long weekend. However, the house is busy with activity! Christmas decorations are being removed, cleaning and conservation duties are in full swing, and a large project is underway. In October 2019 we began an inventory of the Point Ellice House collection to gain a better understanding of just how many artifacts we have on site.

Cutlery from the Point Ellice House Collection

The provincial database for Point Ellice House lists just over 6,000 objects in the collection. Like many museums around the world, collections often contain objects that staff may be unaware of. Copenhagen’s Museum of Natural History discovered this when numerous barnacle samples taken by Charles Darwin in 1854 were uncovered by a curator looking at correspondence between the biologist and a colleague. Frequently, items are brought in to museums and set aside – sometimes they are forgotten – or the people who were in charge of accessions retired or went on to other jobs and projects. Given the changes in site management over the years, and the ups and downs of funding at provincial heritage sites, we were not surprised to find that many artifacts are not contained within the database. However, we are surprised at the amount: As of January 2020, over 2,000 additional objects not listed in the database have been located within the collection. These objects have always been with us (some are even on display), but for unknown reasons they were never properly introduced or “accessioned” into the catalogue.

By conducting this inventory we are able to assess various conservation and storage issues, and we gain a better understanding of our collection. This allows us to tell more stories about Point Ellice House and the people who lived here. The inventory will inform future exhibits and determine priorities for conservation and funding. There’s always more to learn, and we look forward to sharing more about this project in the coming months.

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