Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A Stranger in Strangers’ Hall: When working in museums, make robots?

February 13, 2010 · 3 Comments

Yesterday I offered to come in and help out at the museum, not really knowing what I would be doing. Strangers’ Hall for the past month or so has been having a “face-lift” aka conservation work done to it, among other things, so they have been closed to the public. The day I decided to come in and help out was definitely a whirl-wind day for the museum and I was glad I could be there to help!

I came into a place full of boxes, conservation equipment, paint buckets, school children, antiques, and my boss running around. This I have come to learn is normal for many museums, maybe not an everyday ritual, but definitely normal. After about an hour of running up and down stairs, following my boss around, and looking at antiques for a possible press release that was happening in about an hour, she decided it would not be the best idea to have the press come in that day. The press wanted to come in and take photos of either the conservation or the new activities planned for “half term” for the school groups. If the press came today, the museum would not have been at its most appealing, so it beat having to set up a “faux” childrens’ activities center in a half hour.

Instead, my boss plopped a big box down in front of me and said, “Make a robot.” From 8 years in working in museums, I can tell you I have never heard that in any of them. Apparently, the theme for the “half term” school events is ‘Spring Cleaning’ where they will be showing kids Victorian cleaning tools and teaching them about a servant’s day. The craft they wanted the kids to make though are I guess cleaning robots or machines, making some sort of invention. My job was to create a “robot” as an example among two other ones the staff made. Someone had made a washer with legs and someone else made some sort of Hoover. Staring at this empty box, I didn’t know what to make. After a few moments of looking through craft supplies, I decided to make some sort of trash converter with a conveyor belt and a screen. The end result was a “trash converter” that turns rubbish into food. Not one of my best art creations by far, but for coming up with something on the spot, I was pretty proud of myself.

This little project goes to show that anything is possible in museums. I think why I really enjoy working in museums is because there is always something exciting and different happening from day to day. Maybe it is not what most people would call, “living by the seat of their pants”, but I find it rather exciting. Now I am a bit curious to see what my next adventure at the museum has in store for me.

Hours logged: 3
Total hours: 5

Categories: Alli · Museums
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3 responses so far ↓

  •   Karl // Feb 14th 2010 at 08:29

    Making robots for Victorian cleaning day makes perfect sense…to someone I’m sure.
    Make sure to add the tag “volunteering” to your posts.

  •   russella // Feb 15th 2010 at 12:39

    a Victorian robot you say? I hope you added a steam kettle.

    Does working in a museum in England feel any different than working in one in the States?

  •   allisonmschell5 // Feb 15th 2010 at 20:20

    Yes and no. Obviously there are going to be changes with the history presented, etc, but almost all museums face the same problems. Compared to the other museums I have worked at in the States, Strangers’ Hall is very “child friendly” and like to do children’s activities. Mostly though, from volunteering in smaller, local museums, whether in England or America, they face the same issues. And oftentimes I forget that I am not in America when I volunteer there…I feel so at home. One difference I do see in England is the fact that there are SO many smaller museums, just because there is so much history and even villages will have a museum telling about the village’s past. I’m sure I will find more similarities and differences as my time goes on!

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