Things I’ve learned working in a museum (part III)


That paper can be surprisingly heavy…

I thought that the art gallery would be one of the easiest sections of our cataloguing work within the museum. Apparently I was wrong. Due to various issues (involving huge boxes in very narrow aisles stored well above head height and accessible only with a worryingly wobbly ladder) it has turned out to be one of the most problematical areas. I thought that my main issue in the art gallery would be my complete lack of knowledge about art (seriously – I had no idea who Mackintosh was. I now know very well, having catalogued a very large amount of sketches, prints, paintings, wall hangings, wood panels, chairs, wardrobes, stained glass windows, meat safes…CRM was a very prolific man! And very unchoosy in his work. He would do anything. I’ve seen designs for carpets, furniture, houses, tombstones…you name it, he would design it for you!).

But it turns out that the main issue is just how much paper can weigh! Some of the boxes of prints weigh more than you would think humanly possible, considering that they basically contain PAPER! There are some boxes that even two of us can’t move at all. Which is frustrating, because I want to see everything! Every day is like Christmas, opening up the boxes to see what goodies are inside! Even if it is just yet more Turner prints (they’re beautiful, but there are a lot of them!).

That art can be interesting…

I know nothing about art because I’ve never taken much of an interest in art. This is largely due to the fact that I find art galleries boring. And THIS is largely due to the fact that art galleries don’t tell you what you need to know…you look at a painting, and next to it will be a panel giving you the artist’s name, the title of the work, the techniques used, the artist’s influences, etc…but they don’t tell you WHAT IT IS YOU’RE LOOKING AT! Which in some cases is easy enough to fathom – a painting of a bloke plowing a field is a painting of a bloke plowing a field (and is probably also entitled ‘A Bloke Plowing A Field’, or something equally unimaginative). But often it can be a painting of (for example) some obscure bible story, and unless you’ve read the bible cover to cover you have no clue what it is you’re looking at. And they don’t actually GIVE you a clue. A brief description of the subject matter would do, but no, obviously too difficult. Which is why I have a very short attention span when it comes to art galleries.

But we have seen some really fantastic things amongst the collections. Every day there are inevitably some things which are just a little ‘meh’, but then the next box will contain gorgeous colour woodcuts of Scottish landscapes, or 18th Century satirical cartoons, and you don’t want to put them away! You can waste a lot of time just admiring the stuff rather than cataloguing it. Or you could, if you had about 10 years to spare! Unfortunately we only have one year in which to go through EVERYTHING, so at some point you have to put things away and move on. Which is always a disappointment, because I’m sure there are lots of beautiful things that I have missed. But there’s always the hope that there will be even more beautiful things in the next box…

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2 thoughts on “Things I’ve learned working in a museum (part III)

  1. You have such a great job! Also, some galleries will tell you a tiny bit about the bible story/historical event that the painting is about, although not as many as I'd like…

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