Goodbye old Scotland, all covered in snow…

You may have noticed that I’ve not posted in a while, and that’s because I’ve been too busy couch-surfing these last few weeks! My contract in Glasgow finished at the end of November, and I’ve since moved back down to sunny Somerset while I hunt for another job. But I thought I should write one last post about Glasgow, to try and sum up my wonderful museum experiences there…

I was thinking earlier about how much I’ve learned in the last few years, and this last year especially, about working in museums, and how far I’ve come since I first interviewed for a museum job 3 years ago (and embarassed myself horribly, I’m ashamed to admit – at that point I was in no way qualified for the job at hand!). I first started volunteering at my local museum because I didn’t know what else to do with degrees in Zoology and Palaeobiology…I had to some extent educated myself into unemployability. Except in the fields I wanted to be in of course, because I lacked a PhD. So I started helping out at the museum for something to pass the time. And quickly fell in love with the place. It’s a little hard to explain sometimes why I love what I do…I guess it always is with these things: if the person you’re talking to doesn’t share your interest, then it’s hard for them to understand it. But I enjoy cataloguing and photographing and cleaning specimens, and knowing that with any luck my care will mean that the specimens will survive, complete with useful information, for many years, to be studied and cared for by future generations of nerdy museum people. And I love learning about the specimens. Just through documenting the mammal collections in my former museum I learned a huge amount about them, and their history, because I had to cross-reference old catalogue records, and perform endless internet and book searches to identify species that had been labelled wrongly or had been accessioned under old defunct names. And I love the physicality of the work, and the fact that there are so many different things to do – in one day I could be painting a specimen’s stand, then cleaning a skeleton, feeding the live animals, putting some bird nests in the freezer and processing the ones that have come out, pinning insects…it would leave me exhausted at the end of a day, but immensely satisfied!

And from my wonderful experiences over the last few years, through volunteering and working with some lovely, patient, instructive curators, I think I have become a competent natural history curator myself. There is still a lot I can learn about collections care and conservation, and I can’t wait to learn it, but I am no longer the terrified, unconfident girl who ummed and ahhhed her way through that interview 3 years ago. And hopefully I’ll find a new position soon, because I can’t imagine giving up on this career that I love and going back to a normal job. That would be far too boring!

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