Postgraduate Curators reflect on their Making Waves exhibition

some of making waves team
Some of the Making Waves exhibition team at a fundraising event.

This guest blog comes from Steven and Charlie, two postgraduate students on the University’s Museum and Gallery Studies course. As part of their assessment, the students are asked to curate an exhibition from beginning to end, including a range of events. This is what they’ve learnt…

On the 17th May, precisely two months after the opening, the Making Waves: Innovations in the Science of Sound exhibition took a bow and made its final curtain call. Just forty-eight hours later, all visible signs of the Museum and Gallery Studies students’ hard work had vanished; objects had been carefully wrapped and returned to the stores, shelves dismantled and the text panels and images enthusiastically looted by those who had carefully created them in the first instance. All that we have left are happy memories and some unforeseen transferable skills, which we would love to share with you.

  1. Physics skills
charlie learning
Charlie learning about acoustics

Neither of us had any professional training as scientists. Indeed, the last time that Steven had approached the subject of physics, Nicolaus Copernicus had just come up with his revolutionary theory, that the Earth orbited the Sun. Given our collective ignorance, the prospect of creating an exhibition focusing on the study of acoustics was an unnerving one. However, not being easily deterred, we spent the first six weeks of our time in St Andrews sat in the library, with our heads buried in books. Unfortunately, whilst our peers were reading high-brow works on economics and philosophy, we were crying over children’s publications, with large fonts and even larger pictures, trying to get our heads around basic concepts such as pitch, amplitude and frequency.

  1. Dance skills
charlie and kids
Charlie and the team at one of the Making Waves exhibition events for children

As one of the two Education Officers for the exhibition group, Charlie spent lots of time trying to think of fun ways to get children excited about acoustics. Being the sophisticated, mature, and intelligent young man that he is, most of his activities involved lollypop sticks, elastic bands, balloons and a slinky which is now permanently bent out of shape. Perhaps his favourite game however, was a fun little activity that required children to imitate the behaviour of a sound wave through the medium of dance. As a result of his unerring enthusiasm, even the mere mention of the song ‘Five Little Ducks’ is enough to make the other members of the group wince. Indeed, Steven’s back hasn’t quite recovered from the strain…

  1. Modelling skills

During the project, Steven became a super-model. With his chiselled jaw, twinkling eyes and bean-pole physique, he

Steven enjoyed his brief foray into modelling
Steven enjoyed his brief foray into modelling

was quickly identified as being the natural face of Making Waves. If you look closely at the poster which he was instrumental in designing, you can just about see him modelling a rather snazzy lab coat and pair of goggles. He also made the ultimate sacrifice for the group, by agreeing to grow a beard in order to take on the guise of the famous Victorian instrument maker Karl Rudolph Koenig, at our Festival of Museums’ event. As well as his stunning good looks, Steven also contributed his formidable mind for the good of the group; indeed, through his and his fellow Publication Officer’s efforts, the exhibition guide was a shining beacon, which illuminated the instruments and individuals presented within the display.

On a more serious note, aside from all these crucial skills, this experience has been extremely worthwhile. By having the opportunity to plan, design and execute a real exhibition, we feel that we have gained the knowledge and confidence to pursue our ambitions within the heritage sector. Before we leave, we would like to thank the staff at the MUSA and our lecturers, without whom, none of this would have been possible.

Gratefully, Steven and Charlie


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