Birmingham Museums Trust

Cultural Intern Harriet Aldridge shares news about all the exciting stuff happening at Birmingham Museums Trust…

It has been 3 months since my last blog post, and in that time I have managed to work on several exciting projects within different departments. It’s difficult to choose which projects to blog about as I have done so much!

From giant wax rabbits to fractal generating software, I’ve had the pleasure of working on the New Art West Midlands Exhibition over the last few months.  I have been assisting the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art on a whole myriad of things, such as finalising design and layout (including the colour of the walls and final object placement), to acting as loans registrar and completing object labels. I have become very familiar with the Loan-in procedures at the museum and am able to produce loan-in forms, and help establish the terms and conditions under which the items were being received.  I also devised a transportation and installation schedule between the artists, curator and technicians. Fortunately I was also able to meet with the artists when they came to deliver and install their work, and really enjoyed meeting them. I also produced the object labels for the show, in accordance with the museum guidelines.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project; the artwork these artists produce is just outstanding!


Finishing touches before the opening

I have also helped de-install the first exhibition I worked on, Night in the Museum. It was sad to see the sculptures and paintings go back into their crates and shipped off to another gallery – I had grown quite attached to the exhibition and pieces within it.  It was lovely, however, to read the comments in the visitor comments book! Many people loved the idea of sculptures looking at paintings, and many complimented the interpretation booklet I had worked on. I was able to help pack the items and do a few more condition checks with the museum conservator Ben and the Arts Council Collection curator before seeing the objects off.

I was fortunate enough to do some interventive conservation work on some of the Ancient Egyptian collection, including a figure if Isis and an Egyptian fish. The conservator, Ben, showed me how to remove corrosion using Industrial Methylated Sprits and small precision hand tools. I was also shown how to take high quality images and keep a treatment log.


The Egyptian Fish I worked on

As well as this I was able to experience some preventative conservation, mostly at the Collections Centre. I assisted Ben in replacing all the pest traps- which was actually more enjoyable than it sounds! First I had to identify the different pests on the trap, and keep an accurate record of what we found. It was then time to decide if any action needed to be taken. We did find a few pests of concern in the textiles department, but now that we know they are there we can protect the collection. I found this to be a valuable experience, and I really enjoyed working with Ben in conservation.

I have also been fortunate to work on the Birmingham Manufactures project at BMAG. I assisted the documentation assistant and research assistant in taking some very high quality images of items they were researching. I was able to use the photography software, Capture 1, and learn the standards of museum photography. I learned how to use the high quality cameras and lighting they use too, to enable me to capture the clearest image possible.


Taking photos of Birds Custard Collection

Keen to learn as much as possible, I asked to find out more about the collection management system the museum uses, which is called Ke EMu. In the past I have used CALM and Adlib, and I wanted to get experience with EMu, especially as many museums now use it. The documentations registrar, Misaho, was able to give me an induction in how to use the system as well as how to fill out the different fields. I was able to have a go at searching for items in the collection, and filling in different fields. I found this to be really valuable, especially for future jobs working with collections.

I have just over a month on my internship left, and plan to make the most of it! Although I wish I could stay at BMAG longer, I know that this placement has put me in good stead for the future, and has pointed me in the right direction! Bring on March.


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