As part of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House’s work towards Museum Accreditation, a team of volunteers got together one Monday to allocate unique identifying numbers to the books in William Gaskell’s study, with the aim of doing the whole collection eventually.
Supervised by Jane, and supported by Diana who used the opportunity to give all the shelves a thorough cleaning, we set to work. The tricky part was to calculate how many running numbers each shelf required and to ensure no number was used twice. Multi-volume works needed special treatment (a unique number, subdivided by the volume number, e.g. 318.1, 318.2 etc) so we were kept on our toes.
What I found particularly enjoyable was the chance to examine at close quarters many of the books in the study that I normally only glance at and describe in a general way to visitors. I didn’t realise before that we have a complete set of Gibbon’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire (which I had to read for my history degree). Hopefully I can now enrich the information I impart to future visitors.
I was also struck by the range of different bindings and endpapers, some of which were strikingly beautiful. Although the date range of the majority of the books fall within the mid to late nineteenth century, some rare items are over 250 years old.
My day job is a cataloguer for Manchester Public Libraries but the day’s work didn’t feel like work at all! I’ve already signed up for the next session.
Lizzie Gent, Volunteer
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