Brilliant blog post by student, Erica! Loved reading how Salibury Museum created so many exciting opportunities and provided eye-opening experiences. Proof that making museums more accessible is the key for all!
I’d like to introduce myself – Erica Humbey, keen Classicist with aspirations of a full and colourful future, and I am currently coming to the end of studying in Year 12 at South Wilts Grammar School. Taking exams in Latin, English Literature and Maths and with interests in Music and Ancient Greek, the museum may not seem at first glance the obvious place for me. It has been a week of revelations and endless opportunities!
Hanah (another student) and I worked alongside individual volunteers every day of the week, each of whom have been equally welcoming, generous, patient and interested in our affairs and plans for the future. Doing this has cemented in my mind how utterly invaluable such volunteers are to the existence of the museum. A fitting realisation for National #VolunteersWeek!
Incidentally, we were extremely fortunate to join the museum on this week as we were able to…
The space used for this exhibition is one of my favourites – so spacious, clean and open. It feels very modern although many of the objects being showcased in the gallery are centuries old. Teeth explores many themes including technological advances, dental care and hygiene, health campaigns and toothbrushes through the ages. It was fascinating seeing all of the ways that toothache had been treated in the past, the variety of toothbrush design available and the ways dentist instruments have developed over time. The exhibition showcased objects from “collections assembled by Henry Wellcome, alongside loans from key Northern European collections including the substantial holdings of the British Dental Association in London” – Wellcome Collection press release, 24th January 2018.
My exhibition highlights:
Ghent, Belgium. Late 19th Century, Thackray Medical Museum.
This framed dentist’s window display was a real stand out object for me – the gold framing, ivory tools handled and the symmetrical positioning of the dentistry equipment was very aesthetically pleasing. The display showcases the beautiful tools and skills of dentist JJ Rosseeuw and it is thought that it would have been displayed in his surgery window. I love the fact that dentists in the past were so proud of their professions – they would showcase their talents and skills for all to see. I feel as though this is the historical equivalent of selling your skills and abilities on LinkedIn – a physical advert for others’ to view what you’re good at in your job! Those pearly white dentures are also very appealing!
These beautiful posters were commissioned in the 1940’s to advertise the toothpaste Binaca and I think they are absolutely exquisite. Both were designed by Niklaus Stoecklin, a Swiss artist. I just find the posters so striking that they would definitely have drawn my attention to the product in a positive way. Personally, I find modern day toothpaste adverts quite cheesy – always think to myself “Why is this advert so dramatic? It’s only toothpaste” – but with these the simple message of Binaca as a natural product that will give you pearly white teeth is subtle and elegant.
Dental Instruments: Presentation case, 1871-1900, Wellcome Collection/Science Museum Group, Scalers and chisels, c.1920, Thackray Medical Museum, Travelling technician kit, c.1907, British Dental Association Museum
Even though I’m not scared of the dentist (in fact I quite like it!), these dental instruments sent a shiver down my spine. They reminded me of instruments you use in art class when you’re working with clay! The idea that these tools were used in people’s mouths centuries ago and were the instruments of choice is fascinating to me.
Other exciting objects include a set of dental instruments used by Queen Victoria’s dentist, Napolean’s toothbrush and dentures worn by King William IV!
Napoleon’s toothbrush, Wellcome Collection/Science Museum Group, Thomas SG Farnetti. Source: Wellcome Collection.
The exhibition was really refreshing as it displayed historical objects alongside modern apparatus but there seemed to be a sense of similarity flowing throughout. The shapes and styles of instruments, the messages being presented through Healthcare Campaigns and the societal focus on teeth = good looks has been present since the 18th century through the present day.
The exhibitions and displays that I have seen at the Wellcome Collection all have a medical subject running throughout and this one was no different – the medical aspects of dentistry were covered as was the dangers of bad hygiene and healthcare which I think really adds another layer to the objects and narratives which is really engaging and stimulating. Teeth is on display until 16 September and I would definitely recommend if you like a display that is a little different. It showcases objects that you wouldn’t usually think about – but trust me, after this, you will (every morning and night when brushing those gnashers!)
Last week I wrote my first post about the first job role I had in museums which was as a Training Museum Trainee (TMT) Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service (CIMS). So this week I’m going to focus on my second. One that I still can’t actually believe happened…
In March last year I was job-hunting and came across a entry level role within the Development Department at the British Museum. It was a role centred around Fundraising which I have experience in; formally volunteering at the NSPCC and UNICEF UK as a Community Fundraising intern and then carrying out a fundraising placement at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester whilst at CIMS. The job was everything I had wanted as it seemed like the only aspect of museums not covered in my TMT. I honestly thought the interview had gone dreadfully; I remember phoning my mum and just cringing at how bad it was but laughing it off by saying at least I wouldn’t have to face the interviewers again! But somehow, on a sunny day in May, I got a phone-call offering me the role… I have never been so shocked in my life!
Fast forward 1 month and I was living in London, commuting on the grossly hot Central line and walking in to this magnificent view on my first day! What a dream! I still pinch myself thinking about how quickly my career in museums has excelled in 3 years.
My role at the BM was within the Major Gifts team of Development; with main responsibilities including writing donor reports, carrying out research projects, maintaining the donor database, sending communications to ensure high quality stewardship and any ad-hoc administrative tasks. I also had the opportunity to attend training sessions, conferences and staff events which really shaped my understanding of a large, international museum. Over the year I also supported a number of donor events including Private Exhibition Viewings, Young Friends Sleepovers and gallery openings which were all very exciting.
I am truly grateful that I have been able to work at one of the BIGGEST museums in the world so early on in my museum career. And although I have decided not to pursue a career in Fundraising, the people I have worked with, skills I have gained and lessons I have learnt along the way have taught me so much. I am most happy working with objects and engaging visitors though interpretation, events and outreach so I am looking for more Learning and Collections roles (but before then I plan to do an museum tour around Europe!) It has been a marvellous, challenging but invaluable experience and I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Here’s to the ‘Museum of the world, for the world’ giving me my biggest museum opportunity yet!