Best Practice at The British Golf Museum
Rebecca Prentice, Assistant Curator
Located beside The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse and the Old Course, St Andrews, the British Golf Museum is a must-see for any golf lover visiting the Home of Golf.
Caring for a collection of over 16000 items, recognised as Nationally Significant by the Scottish
Glove worn by Francesco Molinari at the 2018 Open
Government, the Museum maintains best practice in collections management and care to safeguard its objects for the future, and to continue celebrating the game’s history locally, nationally and internationally. The Museum presents the story of golf from medieval times to the present, encompassing the men’s and women’s games, British and international, amateur and professional. Collection highlights include the oldest-known set of golf clubs in the world, the first Open Gold Medal presented to Tommy Morris Jr in 1872, and the oldest footage of a golf match dating to 1894. Museum & Heritage staff are also responsible for the care and display of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews collection.
The Museum is Accredited under the United Kingdom-wide Accreditation Scheme – required to follow Spectrum 5.0 procedures and meeting expected standards in collections management, engagement and interpretation of a nationally-styled museum. Since 2015, the Museum has used the collections management system KE EMu to catalogue its collection, including objects, artworks, archives, library and multimedia. Records are continually updated and refined for accuracy, to house new research and maintain terminology consistency. A key benefit of EMu is supporting day-to-day museum practice, conservation and location control. Pest traps are logged under an integrated pest management programme; given the volume of wood and textiles, any pest outbreak could potentially be very damaging. Remedial conservation is outsourced to accredited ICON conservators and logged on EMu. An 1894 portrait of Old Tom Morris, on loan from Glasgow Golf Club, was recently cleaned and repaired to reveal a much clearer picture of the ‘father of golf’.
Curators monitor environmental conditions of temperature, relative humidity [RH] and light levels. Given the breadth and depth of the collection, many items require special attention. The first Minute Book of the Society of St Andrews Golfers from 1754, laying down the Society’s thirteen Articles & Laws in Playing the Golf which form the basis of the Rules today, are displayed under low LED light levels to preserve the delicate ink and paper. The iconic trouser suit worn by Gloria Minoprio at the 1933 English Ladies Amateur Championship must be displayed under optimum conditions of RH – too high, there is a risk of mould, but too low raises the possibility of the fibres cracking.
Gloria Minoprio’s outfit at the 1933 English Ladies Championship caused quite a stir. She was the first woman to wear trousers at a major ladies’ championship. Her outfit was deemed inappropriate at the time and there was a fear that the wearing of trousers by ladies would result in a slip in standards of etiquette. Gloria’s ground-breaking fashion led to more freedom of choice for women.
Whether protecting the fragility of mid-19th century glass plate negatives; non-invasive identification of hundreds of golf balls; or the ongoing preservation of historic trophies still presented at championships today, curators seek to continually improve care of collections on display, in storage and in transit.