My second week in Hereford began by proof reading and researching aspects of Thomas Andrew Knight. There is an exhibition coming up featuring some of his work and I was tasked with filling some gaps in his biographical and research history. This involved internet searches, liaising with curators across the country and using books to shed some light on things.
I then had a meeting with my line-managers to discuss the year ahead. I really appreciated that as it gave me a solid idea of what the next twelve months would entail, the various training courses available, a selection of projects I could get involved in, as well as my learning styles and needs. The prospect of all of this was getting very exciting.
That night I had to stay a few hours later than normal to help with a group of Scouts being shown around the collection and taking part in some activities. It was fun to see their fascination and curiosity being indulged. I tried to regale them with amazing beetle facts and most seemed astounded. One said: ‘beetles are dumb, they just eat all day’; there is clearly some way to go.
One area of curatorial work that I had not experienced before was the social history side of things, especially relating to the natural history collections. Sometimes we know an awful lot about a specimen or a collection; sometimes we know very little. In some cases, particularly regarding older specimens without a clear paper-trail, specimens can appear in very strange places. I assisted a volunteer with his research into the pike in our collection which has a very mysterious set of circumstances. By spending a few hours on the internet as well as the use of books, we were able to build up a marvellous background that shed some light on our beautiful pike specimen. More work is needed, but I shall provide more information when it is prudent to do so.
An artist visited to take some photos of our insect collection as part of a large-scale art piece he’s working on. This will be displayed in the Hereford Art Gallery (part of the museum) and there will be more info nearer the time. Meanwhile, here’s one of mine of the Brazilian beetles as collected by a Victorian vicar (hopefully an upcoming project for me):
Already I can see the many strands that make up a curator’s responsibilities manifesting. As more are added (and sometimes joined with others), the breadth of duties a curator undertakes is becoming clear.