One week like this: A national adventure

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Working for National Museums Scotland, for me, generally means spending more time in and around other museums than my own. The small but effective National Partnerships team are constantly busy – helping to deliver training, support and specialist advice to colleagues across Scotland. The majority of this is done through our Knowledge Exchange Training Programme which I co-ordinate, but frequently through working with networks, advice giving and simply meeting other museum and gallery professionals.

Below is an extract of a ‘week in the life of…’ diary detailing my recent adventures and travels in the name of  National Partnerships.

I’m heading north to start my working week in Aberdeen. The weather’s phenomenal and showcases the autumn colours beautifully on the drive up – though I’m largely getting distracted by the bangs and bumps coming from the direction of the boot of the hire car as a week’s worth of training materials and leaflets are thrown together. Sunday evening is spent double checking everything’s survived (it has!) and putting it back in order, ready for an early start

Megan's loaded car
Megan Combe’s car loaded ready for trip to Aberdeen.

In an unforeseen move I spend the best part of my 30 minute parking ticket queuing outside a popular food and clothing chain in Aberdeen City Centre, waiting patiently for the trays of food I ordered to be found. Thankfully they turn up in time and I can whizz over to the Art Gallery to set up for the first day of training. Today it’s an Introduction to Visitor Studies, run by Jenni Fuchs, Audience Research Officer, in an eerily quiet venue, as the Art Gallery is closed to the public.

Wednesday morning, Arbroath station. As my hire car inexplicably (and irreversibly it seems) is set to auto-tune I listen to the dulcet tones of Radio North Angus while waiting for Jilly Burns, National Partnerships Manager, to join me. We’re off to Forfar to join the Tayside Museums Forum for one of their regular meetings, but not before driving around various roads in Forfar trying to find the Meffan Museum. Once we arrive, a little late, we’re welcomed with tea and biscuits and settle down to hear all about the cultural goings on in and around the Dundee and Perth area.

The Forum was formed in 2005 with funding as part of the Regional Development Challenge Fund, and continues as a network of all museums in Tayside – regardless of size or funding. Jilly and I were able to tell them about the training programme, advise them of networks that they could join and generally enjoy meeting some passionate people.

Back in the office after our drive back down I’ve got just enough time to load up with more leaflets and boxes for further travels tomorrow.

It’s a very early start as I pick up Katie Simes, Preventative Conservation Officer, for our drive over to the Greenock. Today’s training is on Pest Management, and is not only one of our Knowledge Exchange workshops but is part of a larger training programme for museum professionals in Inverclyde and surrounding areas, put together by colleagues at McLean Museum and Art Gallery with funding from Museums Galleries Scotland.

McLean Museum and Art Gallery
McLean Museum and Art Gallery

It’s a fantastic venue, a lovely lunch and a great local museum as well – Katie and I are impressed by the enthusiasm for identifying ‘beasties’ in the morning, although I think everyone leaves feeling that little bit more itchy than normal! For the afternoon session participants are tasked with wrapping an everyday plastic chair for quarantining and given feedback on their performance, as well as information on treatments and prevention of pest infestations. Finally, after a two hour ‘experience’ of Glasgow rush hour, I drop Katie off and head home.

A Knowledge Exchange training workshop in progress
Katie’s Knowledge Exchange training workshop in progress.

Back to normal in the office, as I’m greeted by 114 unread emails and a pile of unopened mail. I rush to a meeting with Katie to brainstorm some ideas for a new logo for one of the networks that National Museums Scotland takes a lead in, called the Preventative Conservation Forum (PCF). I’m also keen to hear feedback on the Scottish Transport and Industry Collections Knowledge network (STICK ) event has gone earlier in the week, where some of my colleagues from the STICK steering group and the Subject Specialist Consultant have been meeting with local museums in the Highland. Good news and lovely photos appear in my inbox later in the afternoon.

I love getting out of the office and meeting colleagues across Scotland, almost as much as I love wandering around new museums! It’s been an interesting and exhausting week, but the evaluation forms and emails from people I’ve met this week prove that it’s all worthwhile. I’ve a mountain of paperwork to complete, a hire car to drop off and a blog to write up before my busy week can end, but end it does.

Summary of week
Miles travelled – 489
Hours worked – 46
Evaluation forms filled in – 37
Emails waiting – 114
Biscuits eaten – too many!

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