September 27, 2023

Hammer Time

Zoomed in image of an engineering drawing showing 'Aston-Martin 1 1/2 litre, racing engine'

While it may sound like I’ve been getting back into 90’s hip-hop, I have in fact been having an exciting time getting familiar with the auction world.

Earlier this month, AMHT were successful in bidding for and obtaining four Bamford & Martin engineering drawings for the collection.

They date from 1920 to 1923 and cover cylinder blocks and hand and foot compensating brake gear. Produced on vellum, they bear ‘Bamford & Martin Ltd’ and ‘Aston-Martin’, taking us right back to the earliest days of the marque. To be able to add these to the collection where we can preserve them for future generations is what we are all about and it’s great to be building on and developing this.  

Zoomed in image of an engineering drawing showing 'Aston-Martin 1 1/2 litre, racing engine'
Zoomed in image of an engineering drawing detail showing dates and signatures of drafters
Zoomed in image of an engineering drawing showing 'Bamford & Martin Ltd'

Our Acquisition & Disposal Committee (ADC), who were established at the beginning of this year, were instrumental in obtaining these drawings. The Committee was created to help us meet UK collections management standards, especially as we work towards achieving Museum Accreditation. They are responsible for discussing and deciding on potential acquisitions to the collection, and in some cases, as the name suggests, disposals.

Disposal shouldn’t be thought of as a naughty word, but rather a responsible process which may be the best course of action when items are beyond conservation, are a duplicate or don’t fall into our collecting remit. It does not mean that we would be putting items in the bin, and the Museums Association have clear guidelines for disposals and a Code of Ethics by which to work.

Speaking of ethics and due process, when the auction of these drawings was brought to the ADC’s attention, the research began…

  • What were the drawings on offer?
  • Did we have copies of them already?
  • Would they fill a gap within the collection?
  • Did we feel their home should be with AMHT?
  • What funds did we have available to bid on them?
  • Should we have an order of precedence in the event of not being able to acquire all of the drawings?

We were all agreed that we wanted to acquire the drawings and that AMHT would be a perfect home for them. After answering all of these questions and making sure we would also be able to properly store the drawings, all that remained was to register to bid live online.

There was anticipation, excitement and apprehension on the day of the auction as we waited for the right lot numbers to come up. I tested the bidding button and almost ended up with two lovely Chinese tea bowls…  

And now the drawings, happily not the tea bowls, have arrived. With all of our object entry paperwork completed they have been assigned an accession number, a unique museum object number, and put into quarantine. It’s really important that we quarantine any new items coming in to make sure that we aren’t introducing anything we don’t want, like pests, to the rest of the collection.

Two members of AMHT Staff waiting to bid live on the online auction

So what’s next?

We’ll create a record on our Collections Management System, the database where we hold information on all of the items in the collection, and get the drawings properly digitised. Watch this space!

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