The project I am working on is all about discovering exactly what’s in our collection. Seeing how each specimen measures up against the criteria we have chosen to assess significance; celebrating the star objects; deciding how to tackle those that may be better suited elsewhere; figuring out the most appropriate and innovative uses of the collections in the future.
As well as blogging and tweeting about the project, which is great to engage with the public and the wider museum sector, it is also important that we connect with staff at the Horniman. People who work in the same museum but would otherwise be unaware of some of the things we’re doing. In addition to internal talks and intranet updates, we wanted to try something a little different.
The perfect opportunity presented itself when I was asked to spend some time with Angeli Bhandal, a student volunteer, and my manager suggested doing “something on Twitter”. I decided that instead of just going on about these (fantastic) expert reviewers with their decades of experience, maybe it would be refreshing to have someone else review the specimens. Someone who would bring a fresh and entirely different viewpoint to the project.
I asked Angeli to find out as much as she could about the Bioblitz project using only our online resources. Instead of me droning on about it, I hoped it would be a more interesting way for her to understand what we were doing, as well as a way of testing how readable some of those resources are (from the museum website and blog, to Twitter and Flickr). After that, I gave Angeli a tour of the natural history gallery and then left her to it. I asked her to photograph anything she was interested in, freaked out or impressed by, etc. We shared her experience on Twitter, which I handily storified here.
It went well and I really enjoyed being able to highlight the collections in this way. From a teenager’s perspective, who sees significance differently. I decided it would be great to get some of the Horiman’s staff to have a go. There are a lot of them on Twitter and I know they love to chat and share and explore. I decided that it would be a good idea if I reciprocated by reviewing their collections so I chose four departments with this in mind: the Library, Archives, Conservation and Learning. Luckily, everyone could see the potential in making connections between departments and between collections.
I met with Helen Williamson, the Horniman’s Librarian, who seemed excited by the opportunity to scrutinise the natural history gallery and, in return, show me some of the amazing books she has found over the years. The conversation we had on Twitter regarding her look around the gallery is summarised here. I loved how her work as a librarian influences what she discusses.
A couple of weeks ago I visited Hayley Egan, the Horniman’s Archivist & Records Manager, and showed her around the natural history store. I’m glad to say that she seemed to really enjoy seeing all the specimens I showed her. Like Helen, Hayley has been at the Horniman for a significant period of time but it was only now that she was able to look closely at the natural history material. Our conversation about what Hayley saw is here.
I’ve spent a short time with Hayley in the archives and I’ve been shown some books by Helen. I’ve had a sneak peek at both of their collections and can’t wait to see more. I will be summarising our conversations about their collections as soon as we have them. Conservation and Learning will also be reviewing our specimens soon. Watch this space and, for now, here are some teaser photos of the library and the archive collections.