11 questions to a museum blogger for #MuseumWeek

best-blogI have been nominated by Claire Miles, HLF trainee curator in Natural History at the Manchester Museum (read her blog HERE) to answer 11 questions about being a museum blogger, a chain blog started during #MuseumWeek on Twitter.

So, here we go…

1. Who are you and what do you blog about?

My name is Lauren, I currently work for the Curatorial Services that overlook the museums, heritage sites and galleries in the Stockport area of Manchester. The collections for all these sites are stored in one building and I am based there. I am a Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) trainee in Collections Management and my day-to-day consists of a lot of documentation and conservation of the various objects in the collection. On my blog I purposely try to expose the stored collection that as I am in a curatorial position I have the pleasure to work with every day but that is not currently on display for the public to view. I blog about ongoing projects and the final results, about new donations and about the discovery and reuse of old ones. In fact, I will blog about anything because I love my job and I want to share that.

2. Why do you blog about museums?

asassas (1)

Some exotic birds were identified using the power of Twitter.

I blog because it is the ideal platform to keep a diary for my HLF training and to share my experiences. On one hand it is ideal for me to be able to talk about what I am up to allowing me to connect and network with others and to begin conversations that can be, and have been, global. But on the other hand it has been an essential tool for the museum. Having this has allowed me to gain help in certain areas, predominantly research, from experts that we don’t have on our team and this has, without a doubt, improved the collection and the knowledge and documentation we hold for the objects. Whereas photographs and talking about objects on this blog is great to instantly expose the collection pieces, this information will be able to essentially expose them over a long period of time. Knowing more about the collection means it is there to be used, be that for exhibitions, research or education, the more you know the easier it is to utilise them in the best possible way. Without this blog and Twitter it would have been impossible, or extremely difficult at least, for me to do this. Social media is so important for museums.

Along side this though, as I mentioned, I am in love with my job and I want to share that. Curatorial teams are hidden from the public view and are often sadly forgot about. It is easy to see the outputs of an exhibitions or education team but for curatorial everything is behind the scenes. You might not see the documentation, the environmental monitoring or the donation processes for example, but without these practices there wouldn’t be a museum. It might seem a controversial topic, and perhaps I am bias, but it is a fact. I think the foundations of a museum is the curatorial team and blogging about what they get up to exposes that this role is essential to the running and to the survival of museums.

3. And which post on your blog did you have the most fun writing?

I enjoy writing as a whole. I enjoy writing about training days I have attended because I come away inspired and ready to run at the new challenges they have highlighted to me. For example the Museums Association event, ‘Moving on Up’ that I wrote about HERE. Admittedly, it is a very long post but I was so excited about what my future could hold, I just had so much I to wanted to say. Yesterday I attended an event a Manchester Museum entitled ‘Encountering Corpses’, which again, I loved. I am hoping to write it up by next week because I do think the ethics of displaying human remains is an interesting debate, despite what feelings and reactions that might invoke for visitors and children (and me, see below) it is a must for museums.

I also enjoy the Find it Friday! series. It nice to be able to actively research a specific object or person once a week. Again, this sometimes brings to light something we didn’t know about the object but it is also nice just to be able to say “Hey! Look how awesome this is!”

4. Which is your favourite museum?

Me outside the RBINS.

Me outside the RBINS.

In January 2012 I visited Belgium and The Hergé Museum and The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Being a huge Tintin fan I was excited to learn more of Hergé but at the RBINS I was quite literally blown away. The scale of the museum was insane and I felt tiny in comparison to the large-scale, diorama like exhibits they created; I was in complete awe. The biggest Dinosaur hall in Europe, a whole herd of Iguanodon and a Blue whale erupting out of an ocean scene…. I had to sleep for two days straight to get over my excitement. It is worth the trip to Brussels if you ever get the chance.

5. Do you think you’ll still be interested in museums in 20 years time?

Of course! Working in a museum every single day has yet to quell my excitement and love for them as a whole. In various roles, not always in the area of museums that I wanted to be in, I have still loved going to work every single day. I can’t imagine my life without museums and I think that is why I want to have a career within them, as I don’t think that is a reality that anyone should ever have to consider.

6. What is your earliest museum memory?

As addressed in question 3, my earliest memory of museums involves human remains. At the age of 7 or 8 at school we were learning about the Egyptians. Alongside this our teacher was reading us the R.L.Stine Goosbumps book, ‘The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb’. Soon after we were to visit Manchester Museum to see some real Mummies. Unlike now they were in a case against the right hand side wall when you walk into the Egypt gallery, with maybe 5 or 6 mummies inside. In my memory though, this case went on for as far as I could see, in to what is now the Living Worlds Gallery, with I can’t even imagine how

Asra's feet.

Asra’s feet.

many mummies inside. I was stunned, I was quite honestly terrified and I cried. A lot. I had a lot of nightmares but I was not deterred, quite obviously. In fact, in 2010 I started working at Manchester Museum but I still found walking past that case unnerving. Perhaps this says more about me and a morbid fascination than it does the museum but this ordeal only fuelled my interest in museums. It provided me with a curiosity for what these places were and to what exactly goes on within them. That attraction to the air of mystery museums possess has yet to dwindle.

7. What was the last museum you visited and what did you see?

Oddly enough, it was Manchester Museum yesterday to see some Mummies. I attended ‘Encountering Corpses’, a day of talks about the perception of human remains and the ethics and best practice issues surrounding displaying and holding them within a museum environment, where you are most likely to encounter a ‘corpse’ in everyday life and the attitudes towards the dead of scientists, the public, artists and serial killers. Campbell Price Manchester Museums Egypt and Sudan curator gave a brief tour of the Egypt gallery and we saw Asra, the first mummy the museum acquired in 1825. She is dated as being from 650 BC and was unwrapped in the seventies.

Museum Selfie.

Museum Selfie.

8. Share a museum selfie?

Here is one of me wearing my ‘I Tweet Museums’ badge, which of course I do, at @LF_StockMus. (Update: @Ren_Field87)

9. If you could build a museum, what kind would it be?

I think what some people would call a pseudoscience, Cryptozoology, is an important science but there is only one museum dedicated to this in the world; The International Cryptozoology Museum founded by Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman in Portland, Maine. With my background being in Earth Sciences though I would have to have a bit of Geology and Palaeontology in there too. They would be able to coexist quite easily though – The Loch Ness Monster is possibly a living fossil, a Plesiosaur and the rumored existence of Mokèlé-mbèmbé, a possible Sauropod living around the Congo River Basin region.

10. What is the most popular post on your blog?

The Find it Friday! series. This is where an object in the collection is brought to you via a weekly blog post. Each week the object is one that I have either been working with or that I have encountered through the week and found interesting. The objects have no connection apart from that they are currently in storage at the curatorial services and otherwise not available to be viewed by the public.

You can catch up on past posts HERE.

11. Do you think there will always be a need for museums?

Yes. I don’t think this question is even worthy of debate… is it?

———

So now I am going to nominate Katie S and Emma (who I would love to see blogging more about her freelance endeavours):

1. Who are you and what do you blog about?
2. Why do you blog about museums?
3. And which post on your blog did you have the most fun writing?
4. What’s that blog you really would like to get round to writing?
5. Which is your favourite museum?
6. What is your earliest museum memory and what emotion did it inspire?
7. What was the last museum you visited and what did you see?
8. Share a museum selfie?
9. Do you think there will always be a need for museums?
10. What is the most popular post on your blog?
11. What’s the oddest search term that has led people to your blog?

And here’s what you have to do:

  • Answer the eleven questions – you can adapt them a little to fit your blog.
  • Include the BEST BLOG image in your post, and link back to the person who nominated you (that would be me, or this blog post).
  • Devise eleven new questions – or feel free to keep any of these ones here if you like them – and pass them on to however many bloggers you would like to.
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