Exploring the Art and Design Department in a week of work experience

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I have always been intrigued to find out what goes on behind the scenes at the museum so when I found out I could do my work experience in the Art and Design department this was ideal for me, as I am also interested in art and design.

I arrived at Bristo Port anxiously not knowing what my week would entail. I was first greeted by reception as I had to get my picture taken for my week’s visitor pass. I was quickly welcomed by Clare, the administrator of the Art and Design department, who then introduced me to everyone in the office. I was expecting this to be a very daunting experience but I was very quickly surprised. I was given my desk and shown what my work would be this week.

I had three projects to carry out throughout the week. One was to write this blog; another was to enhance the museum’s catalogue records. This task allowed me to get a further insight into what curators really do. My third task was indexing unregistered textiles, which again let me understand what a curator really does, plus they were very interesting to read!

Donation letters for unregistered textiles.
Catalogue records from my enhancing task.

On Wednesday I was lucky enough to go and visit the National Museums Collection Centre. I arrived on minibus and was quickly welcomed and shown around by Lisa, the Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Fashion & Textiles.

The storage units of the Fashion and Textiles department, which contain items not on display in the Museum.

I got to see projects that people were working on that would be on display at the Museum soon, things such as ancient Egyptian scrolls. Going to the Collection Centre also gave me the chance to actually see the dresses from the catalogues I was working on.

Blue cotton and straw dress from around the 1800s.
Another dress from the catalogue, this one having ‘candy cane’ stripes.
Floral dress from the catalogues.

I even got taught how to repack the dresses to be stored safely.

Me packing the dress with tissue paper ‘doughnuts’.

I was also taught how to bag an item up for it to be hung safely.

Bagged coat from 1920s ready to be hung up.

Throughout the week I was very kindly given two tours of the museum; one was an overall tour of the museum from a lovely volunteer and the other was a tour of the Art and Design galleries by three of the Art and Design curators!

Court Mantua dress in the Fashion and Style gallery
Court mantua dress in the Fashion and Style gallery.
Gentleman’s banyan I was shown on my tour.

To conclude, I have had a wonderful week of work experience here at the National Museum of Scotland. Everyone in the department has been extremely welcoming towards me and I’ve definitely been kept busy. From this experience I have developed many new skills and I now have a further insight as to what goes on behind the scenes of the museum. It has been overall a great week.

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