Sealed up tight : the endurance of low priority collections : a case study of the Laing Seal Collection at Otago Museum : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Museum Studies at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Massey University
This thesis is a case study examining a collection of Victorian era glass seal matrix casts, titled the Laing Seal Collection. Held by Otago Museum (OM), these glass casts make up what this research terms a “low-priority collection”: a collection that does not place highly within the collection policy and as a result receives no resources or research and little staff attention. By examining internal documents from Otago Museum, and interviewing key staff members, the objective of this research was to divine why these low priority collections endure. By examining the history of the Seal Collection this research aims to better understand how collections come to be decontextualised. Through tracing both the provenance of the Seal Collection and its history at Otago Museum this research hoped to discover how and why the collection became unknown. The lenses of material culture and organisational memory are used to better understand how staff memories become the last bastion for historical collection data that is not recorded. This makes that information susceptible to forgetfulness and staff transitions. The research shows that the Laing Seal Collection has no discoverable accession documentation, nor historical records indicating when or why it came to Otago Museum. However, this research did succeed in beginning the process of cataloguing and identifying the Collection and revealed a connection from Laing to Dunedin. It also argues that for the Laing Seal Collection to flourish as a collection, agency must be taken by staff members and the collection be fully integrated into Otago Museum’s Collection Management System. The future of the collection will entirely depend on how many staff resources are dedicated to it.
Otago Museum, Laing, Henry,|d1803-1883 -- Art collections, Museums -- Collection management, Museums -- Acquisitions, Seals (Numismatics) -- New Zealand -- Dunedin, Casts