‘Do you have stuffed animals in your office?’
This is just one of the many odd questions I was asked when I first starting working at National Museums Scotland last July. Fresh from a charity, I was new to the weird and wonderful world of museums. (Professionally at any rate. As a punter, I’d been around the block a few times. Queueing.) So it was all shiny and strange to me – and to my friends and family, who seemed to have some odd ideas about my adopted career.
Another favourite question was: ‘Aren’t you scared to be in the museum at night? What if the mummies come alive?’
Where do you start with that one? Aside from the fact that all the mummies are currently down in storage at Granton, where, afaik, they stay safely tucked up in their coffins – I’m the Digital Media Content Manager, not the night watchman. I’ve never been in the museum after closing time. It’s the National Museum of Scotland, not the House of Wax.
Having said that, if you, like me, fondly imagine that behind the scenes of the museum lie shelf upon shelf of aqueous jars containing unidentifiable squidgy-looking things and ranks of taxidermied creatures staring into the darkness with glassy eyes… well, you’d be right.
My induction trip to the National Museums Collection Centre proved that sometimes reality can be even more fun than fantasy, for there you’ll find all the above and more: from swarms of tiny, preserved insects to a huge, slightly pungent whale skeleton; trams and trains and cars and bicycles, glass, ceramics and silver and (best of all) box upon box of shoes!
It was during my visit that I realised that, while I may never have to flee through the darkened corridors of the museum to escape a shambling mummy, this job was never going to be dull.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, there aren’t any stuffed animals in my office. Maybe my colleagues in Taxidermy will read this and send me one over. An Aye-Aye would look lovely on my desk…
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You can find out more about the National Museums Collection Centre here. Visits can be arranged by appointment and tours are available at certain times of the year.