If you’ve ever wondered what a Collections and Interpretation Intern gets up to, have a nosey into Ellie’s day on Thursday 23 March 2017:
I began my day with a focus on interpretation – I’m making 8 portable pop-up exhibition banners which will introduce Rutland (its origins as the smallest county in Britain; its history e.g. Battle of Empingham; predominant events e.g. construction of Rutland Water). Specifically on this day, I located images from the museum’s Local Studies archive for my exhibition graphics like this one of Victorian Ketton:
For added effect and to avoid the photo pixelating when I stretched it to A1 size, I removed the background and altered it to have this modern-looking ‘cut out’ effect:
Here’s a sneak peak of one exhibition banner (albeit unfinished) I’ve made with an old adapted Rutland photograph as a border:
I found out lots of interesting social history facts which I interweaved into my exhibition: did you know that straw beehives called skeps were used during the Victorian period? They didn’t allow for the inspection of bee diseases and parasites and so were replaced by more modern hives. To get the honey out of even earlier hives (e.g. pre-1800s – though, 9000 year old pottery vessel beehives have been found in north Africa!) the whole colony was destroyed – at least the Victorian ones were better than this.
Villagers in Rutland using skeps.
The museum’s fantastic volunteer Marion then arrived to help with collections. We are doing a collections audit of all our archaeology. This involves checking the location of thousands of objects. We then photograph them, measure them, document any extra information (e.g. provenance), and check their condition to see if they need to be sent for conservation.
Here’s a lovely Bronze Age socketed spear head in good condition that we came across. Attached to the artefact is a very useful label; because our artefacts originally came from many different collectors over the last 66 years and were accessioned (accepted into Rutland County Museum’s collection) by many different curators, the amount and type of information written varies considerably – most of the time we do lots of detective work. Today the museum has a structured accession policy which makes it very easy to find out useful information about any object.
Objects myself and Marion particularly enjoyed documenting this day was this small collection of Roman pots – they cracked in the potter’s kiln and were consequently discarded. We can even see that their bottoms were smoothed. It’s nice working with objects like this because although they’re not functional or beautiful, they show a behavioural sequence/snapshot of an individual – showcasing everyday Roman life. I wonder if the first Romans who lived at Clipsham Villa in Rutland liked it here? How did our clay differ for the potter?
My manager Lorraine thought it would be good for me to get some hands-on conservation/cleaning experience and so to the stores we went. Our taxidermy husky is being loaned out of the museum to go on display and so we want him looking his best. Preparing the museum hoover (which reminds me of Ghost Busters), we attached a thin piece of material with small holes onto the vacuum head. This allowed us to catch any big pieces of the specimen that could have fallen off. I’m wearing gloves as it’s likely this specimen contains arsenic! In Victorian times this was one of the principal substances used in the preparation of skins for taxidermy. As the Yellow Earl’s favourite pet, this specimen is old and so I took care and my time to clean him with small strokes. I then completed a condition survey where I pointed out what was missing from the specimen (most of 1 ear and a few toe nails) and patches with scarce fur: this is to inform the museum he is going to. My colleague Emma said that the school children below on their school trip asked why I was shaving a wolf. This made me laugh.
I got thinking about this Oakham Earl and did some research. He loved yellow and was the first president of the Automobile Association (AA). His name was given to the Lonsdale brand. He explored arctic Canada in 1888 and donated Inuit artefacts to the British Museum – it’s a shame Rutland County Museum wasn’t around at this time! We could have had some anthropology in our collection.
It was then time for me to go home – all in a day’s work! I absolutely love my job. I love working with objects and learning new things and I especially love passing this on to others. My role enables me to do all of these simultaneously; it’s the perfect job for me.
If you’d like to find out what else I get up to, please follow me on Twitter: @elliesarahcoope