My First Week – I had a mammoth of a time!

My first week! I was excited, a little nervous, unsure about what to expect and utterly thrilled to start.  My week (and every working week of the next twelve months) will be split: Mondays and Tuesdays I will be at Ludlow Museum in Shropshire and for the rest of the week I will be in Hereford Museum and Resource Centre. So it was Ludlow first.

I got the train to Ludlow from Hereford on a frosty Monday morning and watched the rolling countryside glinting as I sped past.  When I got to Ludlow I was surprised and delighted that the Library and Museum Centre was located just across from the train station.  I walked in and met my line manager, Daniel.  We had a quick catch-up and then I got the grand tour.

Ludlow Museum is a relatively new purpose-built facility.  Each floor looks very similar and I knew it would take a little time to become familiar with its layout, especially since I’d only be there two days a week.  Daniel showed me all the normal things when one starts at a new place of work as well as all the museum’s stores.  I was pleased that such a little museum could have so many interesting and lovely pieces, be they social history, geology or paintings.  By far the best of them was the natural history collection.  From molluscs to mammals and butterflies to birds I was surrounded by curios of all kinds from the natural world. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

After the tour of the facilities, we had a visit from some researchers who needed access to the Shropshire mammoths.  They had discovered a mammoth near Oxford and were unable to decide whether it was a Steppe or a Woolly mammoth.  Daniel and I were able to help them photograph various parts of Ludlow’s Shropshire mammoth material (by lifting and positioning each piece they needed) so that they could take the photographs back and compare their mammoth with ours.

After lunch it was time to get personal with the natural history collection.  I spent hours familiarising myself with every aspect of it, looking in every drawer and cabinet, not knowing what I would find in them.  Bird of prey taxidermy, stuffed to look as though it was catching prey in mid-flight; a mummified cat grimacing at me as though I had disturbed it; gastropod shells, huge and pearlescent, shimmering green.

The second day at Ludlow was spent photographing various areas of the collection in order to gain an understanding of how they each needed a different approach to capture the relevant details.  A mollusc shell needs to be shot and lit rather differently compared to a stuffed raven. I worked my way through the like of foxes and bird wings and molluscs and various pressed plants.

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