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MCG  April 2009

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Subject:

Bill Pettitt

From:

"Parry, R.D." <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Museums Computer Group <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 8 Apr 2009 17:27:34 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (41 lines)

As chair of the MCG, I wanted to add just a few words regarding the very sad news that Charles 'Bill' Pettit recently passed away.

As many of you will know, Bill was the first chair of the Museums Computer Group and was an instrumental force behind the group during those early years, as this community of practice found its shape and voice. He always spoke fondly (if, at times, a little mischievously) of those early meetings, not least when he gave this account for our 25th Anniversary celebrations, in Cambridge, back in 2007:

	"Ah! I remember it  well - the first meeting at the Sedgwick, that is. Actually, what happened was that towards the end of a good, constructive and useful meeting I stood up and suggested we should make such meetings a regular thing, as at the time museum computing was in its infancy and there was no forum for discussion.  Remember at this time everyone was doing their own thing, using whatever tools they had to hand - the Sedgwick with the forerunner of GOS, Manchester with Famulus, Newcastle with Spires etc. As is the way of things the response was "Jolly good idea, will you arrange it, Bill?". So I did, with the next meeting at Manchester some six months later - technically it was at that meeting that the Group was formed, although it was agreed to count the Sedgwick meeting as the first. The next meeting was at the Hancock in Newcastle, where I made the mistake of going to the loo during the discussion, to find on my return I had been elected first Chairman in my absence!"

Those first meetings brought together enthusiasts and specialists from around the sector - the small pockets and enclaves of 'first adopters' supporting each other as they worked to make sense of what computing could mean for museums. Bill's humour, his collegial manner and the genuine sense of wanting to support and share with other professionals were all qualities that not only characterised those early meetings but became embedded in the conduct of the MCG in the years ahead. Today, with much bigger membership, ever more ambitious events, increasingly more professional governance, and diversifying areas of discussion, we may be different to that group that met for the first time in the early 1980s, and yet we have not lost those core values (of mutual and generous support) that Bill personified.

On a personal note, I spent a great deal of time with Bill when he formally handed over the MCG archive to me when I took over the archivist committee role from him, and then again when I interviewed him for a book I was writing on the history of museum computing. We spent many hours at his home recording his memories and recollections of his time first as a young graduate at the Natural History Museum and then latterly at the Manchester Museum. (In the late 1960s Bill was using government computers to make sense of natural history data.) On those occasions, and on those many other times we met, Bill showed nothing but hospitality, patience and warmth to me and my (sometimes quite odd and specific) questions about events some forty years previous.

Bill Pettitt was a museum natural history curator who had a foot in both an old and a new world of curatorship, and his career in many respects mirrored the journey the sector took with technology during that time. The MCG, and museum computing, owe him a great deal, and he will be deeply missed.

Ross Parry
MCG Chair


-----Original Message-----
From: Museums Computer Group [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Malcolm Chapman
Sent: 03 April 2009 16:24
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Bill Pettitt

I have been asked to pass on the sad news that Bill Pettitt has died. While Bill 
was Keeper of Invertebrate Zoology at The Manchester Museum, he was also a 
long-standing member of the MCG. Bill was instrumental in developing early 
databases and websites at the Manchester Museum. He was involved in the 
development of Spectrum and Fenscore.  Bill published a number of books 
including "Information Management in Museums" (edited with Elizabeth Orna).  
His curatorial expertise was with molluscs. He retired in the mid-1990s on 
health grounds (he suffered from angina for many years) but continued with 
voluntary work in the Museum until only a few years ago.  

Malcolm Chapman

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