Object knowledge during documentation
By Jan van den Bos, curator, military collection, DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History
The purpose of museums is to collect objects with artistic, cultural and scientific value and preserve, research, interpret and present these objects through exhibitions, publications and special programmes.
It is important to accumulate as much information as possible when acquiring an object. Museum professionals have the necessary training to interpret new acquisitions as efficient as possible. Cataloguing is one of the important documentation procedures to add value to an object. A brief description of the object is essential.
Let us take an example from the cut and thrust objects in the DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History’s collection. To be able to describe swords and rapiers one needs to identify the different parts. You need to know the difference between a sword and a rapier. A sword has a fairly broad straight blade, is sharpened on both edges with a point that is in line with the centre of the blade. A sword has a grip, pommel and a simple cross-guard which is usually straight. The foot soldier or infantryman was equipped with a shorter blade, which was suited for man to man combat. The horse riding soldier has a longer blade suitable for combat on horseback.
Figure 1: Example of a sword in the collection of DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History (HG 21709).
The rapier was more of a thrust than a cutting weapon (e.g. a sword). It has a long but much narrower blade. The blade is often in the form of a flattened hexagon, triangular or quadrangular with a groove or two grooves in the centre.
Figure 2: A rapier in the collection of DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History (HG 6004-2).