When they’re growing up most children have ideas about what they want to do when they’re older. I was no different. I wanted to be a train driver, an airline pilot and, according to my mum, a duck! I never thought I’d end up working in museums. They seemed to be dull, dusty places where nothing very interesting happens and anyone who worked there must be slightly strange and incredibly boring! It was only when I reached my 20s that I realised museums can actually be exciting places where we can encounter objects that have played roles in shaping the world we live in, that have been handled by important people and that have “seen” amazing events. Hooked, I realised that museum work was for me.
A few years later and I’m in my first job as Curatorial Trainee in the field of learning and access with Museum Collections here at the University of St Andrews. My first day was only two weeks ago and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was I nervous? A little. Excited? You bet!
The University has some absolutely amazing collections, from unique items such as the three mediaeval maces with some intricate depictions of various figures, including a rather fascinating wild man, to everyday objects from the University’s history, such as an iconic red gown. The new open access store is also home to an interesting device used by students of medicine to practice checking the prostate. I’ll not go into details, but if you want to see it book a place on one of the store tours taking place this Sunday 19th September for Doors Open Day. The chance to work with such a variety of objects is one that gets me wishing away my weekends and looking forward to Monday morning (sad but true).
My role is to dispel those images of dull museums and get people motivated about the amazing history of this University and the cracking collections and buildings it looks after. There are some exciting things happening in the coming year, from tours of the aforementioned open access store, helping the public (that’s you!) to see even more of what we have here, to the annual Young Artist Award, this year on the theme of portraiture. No day is the same. This morning I found a box of reproduction eighteenth century costumes mimicking those seen in Opie’s painting of the Death of Archbishop Sharpe sitting on my desk. They’ll be in MUSA next year for young visitors to wear. Watch this space!
That’s all for now, but a quick reminder that as well as the new store you’ll have the chance to enter the Senate Room, Parliament Hall and the King James Library, all rarely seen by members of the public and all of which you’ll find around St Mary’s College, just off South Street, from midday this Sunday as part of Doors Open Day. You’d be daft to miss out!