A week in the life of a museum professional.

The beauty of museum work is that each day is completely different. Excitingly, my role as a Collections Officer at the Garden City Collection in Letchworth encompasses a wide variety of museum work. In a small team of 3, I delve into conservation, cataloguing, exhibitions, teaching volunteers, researching enquiries and much more.

So far in the past week I’ve attended a Collections Trust Seminar at the Science Museum in London and spent an entire Tuesday with a conservator carrying boxes around and opening them to reveal precious silk textiles (and learning a lot about past conservation treatments and textile production on the way!) I’ve also researched Letchworth’s first public statue for a journalist of an LGBT magazine, liaised with a lecturer in theatrical studies and dramaturgy from the university of Exeter concerning photographs and copyright paperwork for a publication and put-together some themes for our new museum website.

Yesterday we received a huge ‘Conservation by Design’ order, very exciting for us museum folk! Conservation-grade storage and cleaning equipment is vital in helping to look after our collections. We unwrapped lots of secol sleeves, acid free boxes and tissue, acid free card, soft hair brushes and even a brand new hepa vac!

Not long after unwrapping the new hepa vacuum cleaner and soft hair brushes, our wonderful NADFAS volunteers arrived to clean early 20th century architectural plans. We have around 20 volunteers currently working with us, they are highly valued and we could not function without their amazing help. From cataloguing to cleaning, scanning to transcribing, anything goes – with the right training from us!

Today I’m attending a copyright training course with my colleague Collections Officer Aimee at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. This will be followed by some shopping around for art materials for next week, when i’ll temporarily become a ‘creative media’ teacher, along with my two colleagues, at North Herts College. We shall be educating 4 classes of 16-17 year olds about the wonders of that 70’s invention, the fanzine – and helping them produce their own!

Finally and rather excitingly, an oil painting in our collection of Ebenezer Howard and the original ‘masterplan’ of Letchworth are both on loan to the National Portrait Gallery, for an exhibition on William Morris that opened yesterday! Our curator went to the Private view on Monday. Many early architects of Letchworth were influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.

Our website launches soon and I’ve recently participated in a mammoth digitisation project, to make more images available to view online.

I’m sure you’re feeling rather exhausted after that, there’s no rest for the museum professional that’s for sure.


My colleague unwrapping a conservation order!


Science Museum seminar, London.


The Curator giving a museum store tour.


Photography in process, our mammoth digitisation project working with the Mobile Scanning Company.


Our paper conservator Nick, based at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.


Wrapping WWI rifles for the Herts at War exhibition.


Me cataloguing fine art ready to take to the conservator!

Gemma is a History of Art graduate, who started her museum career back in January. She blogs at a joint blog with Jessica at http://thevintagecupboardlifestyles.wordpress.com/ and on her photography-themed blog at http://gemmaleader.wordpress.com/

6 thoughts on “A week in the life of a museum professional.

    • therealjlow says:

      Im sure Gemma will reply but isnt it amazing! I love hearing about gemmas incredible days so much work goes on behind the scenes that itreally makes you appreciate what you see from now on, right? It certainly has for me! Not to mention job envy! Be sure to check out gem’s blog for more! Jess


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