Our CollAsia programme is using the RE-ORG Method to help the region’s museum professionals develop skills for better managing their collections, with a focus on optimizing storage space to prevent damage to objects. The team behind the initiative explains more.

Participants and teacher discuss what makes a collection
Participants and their teacher discuss what makes a collection.

Developed in the wake of the pandemic, the International Course on the Reorganization of Collections Storage in Museums of Southeast Asia is the first CollAsia and RE-ORG initiative conducted entirely online, overcoming distance and restrictions with a highly motivated course team and 20 engaged participants from 10 museums. Delivered in two parts, it began with modules from September to December 2021 and continues with distance mentoring until April as participants implement RE-ORG projects of their own.

In the first part of the course, participants were introduced to the foundations of the RE-ORG Method through thematic lectures. Each session was an opportunity for them to work together on educational activities related to the lecture’s subject. In small groups led by facilitators, participants were encouraged to share their experiences and contribute to discussions proposed by the course team, allowing them to build up collaborative practices among themselves.

"What I have achieved as result of participating in this course is systematic knowledge on how to organize all collection storage in my museum by understanding the problem and how to solve it.”

Nor Jawahir Binti Raduian, Malaysia

RE-ORG team from Museum Manusia at the Sangiran Early Man Site in Indonesia discuss implementing their project in the storage room.
RE-ORG team from Museum Manusia at the Sangiran Early Man Site in Indonesia discuss implementing their project in the storage room.

Step by step, participants enhanced their understanding of collection storage and strengthened their decision making-skills, gaining the self-assurance to analyze the situation in their own museums and identify strategies to deal with core issues and improve management practices. The first part concluded with each of the 10 museums proposing a project to improve storage conditions using the RE-ORG Method, including an action plan defining crucial changes and the means to achieve them within a short period of time.

Participants now face the challenge of delivering their proposed RE-ORG project and reorganizing their storage rooms, thereby putting into practice the framework learned during the online modules. This includes leading a team of their museum colleagues, making good use of the different skills acquired and encouraging collaboration among fellow professionals.

Since the implementation phase began in January, participants have received ongoing mentoring from the course team, meeting online three times a month to discuss issues, resolve doubts, and share their accomplishments. ‎

“First, I thought the online course was difficult to participate in, but with good team spirit we were able to gain positive results. The RE-ORG course has become a platform for me to achieve a better strategy in managing the collections.”

Nora binti Haji Abdul Kadir, Brunei

Facilitators and participants in a distance mentoring session.
Facilitators and participants in a distance mentoring session.

Despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic, such as technical glitches associated with delivering the course online, participants have remained enthusiastic throughout, with their project proposals demonstrating great understanding of the RE-ORG Method. Distance has proven to be no barrier to them forming close relationships and their camaraderie was on full display in an online performance during the closing ceremony. As a result, a strong network has emerged from the course, which will enable international collaboration and continuous learning beyond borders.

This article was written by the following members of the course team:

  • Lalitha Thiagarajah, Senior Conservator, Conservation Department, Islamic Arts Museum (IAMM)
  • Pattayarach Thamwongsa, Collection Storage Manager, Assistant Director, Department of Museum Knowledge Development, National Discovery Museum Institute (Museum Siam)
  • Zuraidah Ehsan, former registrar, freelance translator
  • Luisa Fruchtengarten, ICCROM consultant.