What is a curator without a museum?
This is a very strange time for everyone working in museums. Usually at this time of year, I would spend most of my working hours at the front desk welcoming visitors from all over the world, chatting about the best places to see in the area, answering questions about the Massacre of Glencoe and generally helping with enquiries. The rest of my time would be spent planning events for the rest of the year, overseeing volunteers, ensuring policies and documentation are up to date for accreditation, keeping our gift shop fully stocked, engaging with people on social media etc. Only one of those things is still part of my day-to-day work right now.
Social media has always been important to us in terms of marketing and engagement, but now it has become really our only means of communicating with people. Many museums and galleries are now concentrating their efforts online, and while that means that there are lots of campaigns to get involved with and opportunities to extend our reach (e.g. Curator Battles, Museums Unlocked and Museum From Home to name just a few in April!), there is also the risk of over-saturation. We are limiting our Facebook and Instagram posts to around 3-4 a week so as not to overwhelm our followers, and are using Twitter to take part in these fun campaigns and support other museums. Everyone can get involved in sharing objects, stories and memories from their favourite museums so give us a follow and join in!
I am in a very lucky position here compared to many other museums as our collection is stored in my house and the museum is just a short drive away, so I am able to continue cataloguing work whilst staying at home and can visit the museum a couple of times a week to check on security, monitor environmental conditions and generally keep things tidy. Preparations for opening were put on hold when lockdown began, so there is still enough work needing done on exhibitions to keep me busy. The audit of our costume store got underway at the start of the year so I am also continuing to catalogue a fine selection of hats, gloves, dresses and…underwear.
And I have to say, the dog is thrilled to have me at home all day every day!
Finally, I have been working alongside our village’s fantastic Community Resilience Group to document ‘Life in Lockdown’. We are asking people in the local area to record how life has changed for them during the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing photos, video-clips, written journals, drawings etc. We are also working on an online survey that will capture the area in the moment, so keep an eye out for that! Thank you to Helen Fairlie and Ally Campbell for submitting these two fantastic photos!
I know that many museums are not so fortunate; some cannot access their buildings or collections at all just now, staff are being furloughed so cannot take part in contemporary collecting, and there is real danger that they will not reopen when all this is over. Like many, our future is uncertain. Our Redevelopment Project is on hold. We will still be around to reopen when all this is over, but we worry about our long-term sustainability.
You can help to support the museums that you love. For now, share posts on social media, leave reviews, donate if you can. When they reopen, visit! Buy from the gift shops, recommend them to your friends and family, spread the word. People need museums and, when this is all over, museums will need you more than ever.