Monday, October 27, 2014

A Day in the Life

A lot goes into making our museums wonderful places to visits and caring for our collections. This series of blogs invites staff at Wakefield Museums to tell you about their day. 

John Whitaker

Museums curatorial and collections officer

Well the pressure is on here. I have been asked to write about a day at work for the blog and I’ve just read Ali’s entry Alison Creasey Day in the Life from last time. How do I compete with rainforest day?

Get into work at Wakefield One, quickly check emails, have coffee, spring into life

Meet artist Harriet Lawson and drive over to our off site stores.

Harriet is a very talented artist who we have commissioned to create an art work in one of the showcases in the upper atrium of Wakefield One. She works mainly with pottery and textile and will be using the museums pottery collections to inspire her display.

Rummaging through the pottery collections at stores

Our stores are a treasure trove. Museums tend to have more stuff than there is room to display and also some of the collection is very sensitive and will fade if on display for too long and so we need somewhere to store it. It’s a warehouse building and a bit like the end scene of  Raiders of the Lost Ark except I have not yet found the Ark of the Covenant in the collections (you never know though – I have not yet been in every box)

Anyway we have lots of pottery for Harriet to look through, the project focusses on everyday pottery rather than artwork so we picked out some pieces made in Castleford and Ferrybridge as well as plates and teapots from our social history collection, and early Roman and medieval examples. She is interested in getting a complimentary colour pattern so there is a lot of toing and froing. She photographs the chosen items.

Harriet Lawton selecting pieces

Harriet particularly like the pieces which are chipped and worn as they really show that the objects have lived a full life before they came to the museum for retirement – she does take this to the extreme though as she really liked a Chinese plate which is broken in two (broken and repaired BEFORE it came into the museum collection I should add, the old repair has failed!)

Back to Wakefield Museum for lunch – a sad sandwich today.

Back on the road this time over to Pontefract Museum

2:00pm – 4:00pm Meet the Curator
I’m covering Meet the Curator at Pontefract Museum this afternoon. The Meet the Curator afternoons are designed as an opportunity for visitors to bring in treasures they have at home to show a museum curator – to be dated, identified or offered to the museum collections. Our collection is built on generous donations from local people since the first objects came to us in the 1920s. Our criteria for collecting is that they are related to or can tell us stories about people who have lived and or worked in the Wakefield district – and we have not already got examples of them in the collection already. We are definitely sorted for flat irons, radios, mangles, dolly tubs and commemorative royal pottery!

This afternoon is as eventful as ever – an interesting Chinese blue and white pot for identification and Roman coin which turned out to be a copy this time.

In between enquiries I also help our museum designer Andrew Marsland display a First World War British officer’s  jacket in the foyer at Pontefract Museum. The jacket is quite unusual as it displays officer stripes on the sleeves, something which was toned down very early in the war because it identified officers to the enemy and made them a target. The display is part of the many activities we have developed to commemorate the beginning of the First World War. We have a Great War Trail at Wakefield Museum which includes a jar of pickled plums, a decorated biscuit and a watch worn in the trenches to time going over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The subject of the war is difficult to balance. It is a commemoration not a celebration but sometimes it is important to finds the chinks of light in the darkness.

Andrew Marsland working on a First World War jacket for display

Back to Wakefield 

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