Technology and the Future of Museums

By Hanley Quintrell, Collections Management (Digitisation) Trainee

I never considered myself a tech-head. This is a museum, after all – not an industry which springs to mind when most of us consider technology.

Yet technology is in everything we do; while the past year has placed great reliance on public-facing technology production such as engaging on social media, production of learning videos, and hosting exhibitions via platforms such as Art UK, beneath the surface museums run on technology.

A sample of the internal information held on the Happisburgh handaxe

Take the backbone of any museum – the collection. No matter if your collection is 30 objects or 3 million, you still need a consistent way to catalogue them, to contain the information in a set location so everything from condition from conservators to research from curators is captured each time such work is done. This catalogue is known as Collections Management Software, and to become fully versed in it you need the IT skills of any database admin.

Adapting to this unexpected element of my role (for trainees apply to the programme, not a specific post – we’re matched with where it’s felt we best fit) was strange at first, but I’ve since found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the tech-head category. Everywhere I turn it seems like there’s a new, fresh way for technology to integrate into museums and better serve the people, whether it’s working with raspberry pi’s for exhibition displays or finding new ways to explore the collections.

An exploration of medieval bucklers from Lee of the Norwich Castle Learning team

Working in museums has, surprisingly, made me really interested in technology. The old and new coming together will always be exciting.

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So, what’s the low down with Arsenic?

By Hemali Chudasama, Collections Management (Hazards) Trainee

Arsenic was one of the hazards that I didn’t have any prior knowledge of. All I knew about arsenic was what I was taught in science class, its elemental symbol is ‘As’ and it has the atomic number 33. Not the most helpful information to start the project off with!

At the start of the project, I emailed all of the curators asking what types of hazards they have in collections which was helpful to build a picture of the different uses of arsenic within the collections at NMS. Alongside this, the most useful tool I found online to help me understand arsenic uses in museum was the hazard in collections tool kit by the Museum of London (https://hazardsincollections.org.uk/). I highly recommend everyone look at this tool kit when starting to work with hazards in collections, you will not regret it!  

History 101

So, what’s the low down with arsenic? Arsenic is a chemical element that occurs in many minerals. It can be found in combination with metals and sulphur but also as a pure elemental crystal.

In its stable form it is a silvery grey, brittle crystalline solid and when exposed to air it tarnishes. When in its non-metallic form it is less reactive.

So, when was it first used and why was it so popular?

It is not clear as to what the first uses of arsenic were but there is a lot of information out there that states that arsenic was used as a poison. The compound used was arsenic trioxide, a tasteless white powder which readily dissolves into water without changing the colour of the liquid. This compound is not naturally found in the environment but would need to be created. It was easily produced through various methods such as roasting orpiment. It became quite popular as a poison in early fifteenth century. Other uses of arsenic include pesticide use, preservatives and pigments. In 1775, arsenic was made into a vivid green dye known as ‘Scheele’s green’ and ‘Schloss Green’. Later this was redeveloped into ‘Paris green’. Random fact alert! It is generally believed that Napoleon’s death was due to arsenic exposure. It was thought this as the house where he lived was painted bright green, his favourite colour.

Arsenic was also used as a treatment for a wide range of ailments. One well known medication would be Fowler’s solution which was prescribed as a tonic between 1786 to 1936. For more information on arsenic uses in medicines check out my blog post on hazardous pharmaceuticals in museum collections (Hazards in pharmaceutical collections | Shine A Light (wordpress.com)

What’s the problem?

Exposure to arsenic can be through inhalation of powder, ingestion and skin absorption. Arsenic is a very dangerous element that is carcinogenic, mutagenic and corrosive. Most common routes of exposure are inhalation of powder, ingestion through medications and skin absorption.

Although now more research is going into this to see how it can be used to treat cancers. As I stated in a previous post, a compound of arsenic called arsenic trioxide is being used in a chemotherapy drug called ATO/Trisenoc.

Example in collections

Fortunately, I have an image of an item in our collections that contains arsenic that I can share with you all. Happy days! Here we have a clear glass bottle containing an iron and arsenic compound pill. This was manufactured by Burroughs, Welcome & Co.

Iron and Arsenic Compound, Burroughs Wellcome & Co.

Sadly, I do not have any other information on what ailments it was used to treat, however I can see that the directions were ‘one to three, taken with a little water, with or after food, twice or trice daily’.

Other objects that contain arsenic within our collections include taxidermy, textiles and arsenic minerals within our geology collections.

Hazardously,

Hemali

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Historian’s Creed: Valhalla (Part Two)

By Hanley Quintrell, Collections Management (Digitisation) Trainee

We can’t expert our art to be historically accurate, even when it rewrites events in the common mind – Richard III is an evil hunchback villain thanks to Shakespeare, but his actual skeleton and even Horrible Histories had something to say about that.

‘Historical Vandals!’ – Jim Howick in BBC’s Horrible Histories

(please enjoy that being stuck in your head until the end of time)

So, where do we draw the line? Is a biopic acceptable because it’s entertainment, even if it turns say, a racist monster who literally monetised enslaving and abusing black people and disabled people into the type of hero he would loved to have been seen as?

I make no apologies, this is me’…is not something we apply to P.T. Barnam thanks to fiction.

Then you have recent film The Dig, showcasing wonderfully the beauty of our neighbouring Suffolk but not so wonderfully the reality of those actually involved in the archaeology at Sutton Hoo. Whether any of these changes, from Shakespeare to today, are worthy of their artistic licence is debatable – but that’s not the debate we wish to have here. Instead we’ll consider the impact of all this fictionalisation through the representation of Norfolk in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.

Image by Ubisoft.

The Assassins Creed series of video games is well known as historical playgrounds, and does a wonderful job at introducing people to history (myself included). Sometimes they aim for accuracy, famously removing the crossbow in the first title after discovering it was set prior to it’s invention, and sometimes they throw a unicorn into a game set in Ancient Egypt, because why not? Nobody’s going to think there really was a unicorn in Ancient Egypt. It’s fine, it’s fun. It definitely doesn’t hurt anyone.

Argh my eyes! It’s too awesome! Image by Ubisoft.

Convincing gamers that Viking invaders were good, misunderstood people who just wanted to improve the lot of those poor Angles? That…sounds uncomfortably like colonisation. Probably because that’s what it literally is.

Spoilers for the game ahead!

There’s a lot of strange things about Valhalla’s Norfolk (or East Anglia, as it was known then – so that’s accurate!), from the strange abundance of hills to the fact that it’s highly unlikely Seahenge could have been seen then, let alone parkoured on.

Seahenge as it was found. Today it can be seen in Lynn Museum, part of Norfolk Museum Service.

It’s the portrayal of social history, however, which strikes the strangest note. While little is known about Oswald, it’s true that he probably was sub-king (with Edmund the Martyr being the last native king of East Anglia), perhaps in conjunction with another, so it makes sense for the game makers to label their Viking protagonist as a king maker.

In the game, it is the direct intervention of lead Eivor which permits the weak Oswald to become king, following his marriage to Dane in a mirror of the end of the War of the Roses, when Henry VII (who is to Henry VIII what comedian Dominic Holland is to son Tom) married Elizabeth of York. While the only true proof we have of Oswald are the coins minted during his reign, the idea that he’d be working alongside the Vikings – let alone in debt to them – is very strange indeed. It is important to remember, after all, that the Vikings are known as invaders for a reason.

Ubisoft’s imagining of King Oswald of East Anglia. Image by Ubisoft via respawnfirst.com

One of those big reasons is how they attacked the monasteries. In the game there’s lots of handy bad-guy soldiers around (who are bad because they’re…defending the local populace?) when you attempt a raid, and a handy warning will apply if you dare kill one of those innocent monks that our kind-hearted protagonist didn’t kill civilians. This is like making me restart my job for suggesting that Henry II never visited the castle – utter nonsense the only serves a chosen narrative, not necessarily the truth.

This is why artistic licence in historical fiction can be a problem. Eventually, like with Richard III, something which is indisputably false becomes a well-known ‘fact.’ At a time when the entire heritage sector world-over is reconsidering the actually false narratives we know so well thanks to colonisation, being entertained by a fiction in which colonisers are presented as the good guys is pretty unsettling – even when you’re as big a fan as I am of Assassin’s Creed.

The beginnings of a fun but historically incorrect raid in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. Image by Ubisoft
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Mesmerising Mercury

By Hemali Chudasama, Collections Management (Hazards) Trainee

One thing that always come to mind when I think about Mercury is a video I watched in science class where someone had put liquid mercury on their hand. If I recall properly, my dad told me about how he held a small amount of mercury in science class in India when he was younger and how he had a hard time keeping a hold of it (Please, no one do this!). I was mesmerised by its silver colour and fluidity and fascinated by my dad’s stories from using mercury in class.

Prior to my role at NMS, through volunteering at various institutions, I have seen mercury containing objects such as thermometers and barometers. I found that researching and writing up the management plans and risk assessment for mercury was by far the most interesting out of all of the hazards I have looked at mainly due to my fascination with it. I am very excited to see some of the mercury containing objects when I get the opportunity to go onsite.

History 101

The history of mercury, where do I start?! Mercury’s elemental symbol Hg comes from its Greek name hydrargyrum (which means water-silver). It is a naturally occurring chemical element and is usually found in rocks within the earth’s crust. It is usually found in ore such as livingstone, cinnabar and corderoite. Mercury that’s used today is produced from mining cinnabar (red ore).

Mercury was named after the Roman God Mercury who was known for his speed and mobility. Mercury is the only metallic element that is liquid at room temperature and also evaporates slowly at room temperature. It has a higher density than most metals which makes it perfect to be used in barometers. Mercury also has high surface tension which means when spilled, it will break up into tiny beads.

So, when was it first used?

It is thought that ancient Chinese and Hindus knew of Mercury before 2000 BC. The Greeks used mercury in ointments to treat a variety of ailments, and ancient Egyptians and Romans used it in cosmetics. From around the 15th century to the mid-20th century, mercury and mercury compounds have been used to cure syphilis.

Why was it so popular?

  • Mercury was known to be contained within a multitude of objects. For example:
    • Thermometers
    • Dental amalgam
    • Liquid mirrors (prior to 1840s)
    • Felt hats
    • Fluorescent lights
  • Mercury has a high thermal expansion property which makes it great for measurement devices such as thermometers and barometers. Recently I have been completing desk-based surveys on mercury containing objects. As part of this, I have been researching barometers and have learnt that not all barometers will contain mercury. From my research I found that there are two types of barometers; aneroid and mercury. Aneroid barometers so not contain mercury.
  • Many medicines and quack medications prior to the 21st century will contain mercury. For more information check out my blog post on hazards in pharmaceutical collections! (Hazards in pharmaceutical collections | Shine A Light (wordpress.com)
  • I had no idea that mercury was used in lights prior to my role here! Mercury – vapour lamps are gas discharging lamps that use an arch discharge (electrical breakdown of gases) through vaporised mercury to create light.

What’s the problem?

Although mercury is a stunning element and all of these uses sound amazing, it is hazardous to our health. Main hazardous exposure to mercury will be through ingestion and inhalation such as mercury vapour. Short term health problems of mercury are stomach upset, rashes and inflammation and long-term problems include kidney failure, damage to the nervous system and even death.

Mercury can be absorbed through the skin, but it will be at a very slow pace (although I would like to add by slow, I really mean very slowly!). I would recommend that if you ever hold liquid mercury, you wash your hands really well after.

Within a museum context, the main ways workers may be exposed will be through damaged object causing spills or release of mercury vapour. It is important in these situations to contain the spill as it can flow through small cracks and implement proper ventilation of stores along with using the correct PPE.

Examples in collections

Now you will be pleased to know that I do have a few images of objects within NMS’s collections that contain mercury. I can’t lie, I was very happy when I saw that there were images for these objects! You can find different types of objects containing mercury within the collections at NMS.

The object I have chosen, as expected, is a confectionery thermometer containing a silver mercury filling. The thermometer was used to create humbugs in the 1930’s.

Till next time.

Hazardously,

Hemali

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LGBT+ Collections

By Hanley Quintrell, Collections Management (Digitisation) Trainee

It’s LGBT history month in the UK right now, prompting me to think about aspects of identity in the collection. There aren’t many obviously LGBT objects at the moment, which is a signal of both recent and ancient history; only the youngest amongst us won’t remember growing up under section 28*, knowing you’d never marry let alone have children.

A section 28 protest which took place in Manchester in 2000 – around the time my teacher told me I couldn’t exist. Photography by Schmeditator.

The western attitude towards LGBT people has changed rapidly in recent years, but that doesn’t make the fight any less real for those in other lands, or make it anymore appropriate to ‘out’ historical figures who would have potentially identified as LGBT today.

Hatred towards the community is rife, with the arguably most vulnerable members constantly targeted in the 21st century, their identities treated as fair political game. All of this history is important, as it helps us understand why LGBT identifying artists often produce work about this area of their lives.

This is a new addition to the Time and Tide collection, a demin jacket with decoration by artist Mille Newton, a teenage member of the National Art & Design Saturday Club which takes place at the museum.

The research on display here is so impressive; a celebratory, positive message superseding ghosts of our past.

I really like this piece as I can’t imagine having the confidence to do something like this when I was a teen. For me, this piece perfectly displays the massive differences in growing up both alongside and/or inside the LGBT spectrum even between Gen Z and Millennials, let alone those who came before both of us, perfectly showcasing how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go.

‘The LGBTQ+ community is something which has always meant a lot to me and it’s a group I’ve always supported and I will continue to stand up for …  normalising this community will always be something I believe deeply in.’ – Millie Newton, artist.

*Section 28 was a part of a wider act affecting England, Wales, and Scotland; it banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, amplifying hardships for LGBT youth from 1988-2003.

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Hazards in pharmaceutical collections

By Hemali Chudasama, Collections Management (Hazards) Trainee

From volunteering at the science museum, I was no stranger to the hazards that are present in historical medication. As a volunteer I didn’t get to work with medicines directly, but I was trained on the hazards that existed and spoke to many staff members that told me about them in detail. I have to say, I was very excited to work with a pharmaceutical collection when I joined NMS as I had been working in a pharmacy as a dispenser for 2 year prior to starting. It was a strange experience to be able to recognise the different types of medications in the collection as I do not have a degree in pharmacy but learnt everything over time.

Since I haven’t had the chance to see the pharmaceutical collections due to remote working, I am grateful that the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell has uploaded their Pharmacy exhibit onto Google Arts and Culture! Finding this gem was definitely a highlight for me when I started the project! Check it out here on this link:

Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Norwich, United Kingdom — Google Arts & Culture

Moving back to hazards, I can hear you say, what type of hazardous chemicals were used in historical medications? What a great question! I think it’s time for…

History 101

Welcome back to history 101. Today, we are going to go over the different types of hazards you can find within historical medicinal collections. The most common hazards one can find in these collections are:

  • Arsenic
  • Radioactive substances
  • Mercury

Okay, so I know you’re probably wondering, Hemali, these are very dangerous and hazardous, why were they used in medicines? Good question, this leads me onto

Why was it so popular?

When arsenic, mercury, lead and radioactive elements were first discovered, we did not know of their hazardous nature, only their positive properties.

ARSENIC: For over 2,400 years, arsenic has been used within medicines to treat a variety of ailments. Hippocrates used two types of arsenic sulphides Realgar and orpiment to treat ulcers and related disorders. In the 19th century, arsenic was used in medicines such as antiseptics, sedatives and antispasmodics. Even now, arsenic is being used to treat diseases such as cancer and syphilis.

MERCURY: Mercury based medicines are known as blue mass and were commonly used from the 17th to the 19th century. Blue mass was commonly used in treatments for syphilis, tuberculosis, constipation and childbirth.

RADIOACTIVE MEDICINES: One of the main examples of radioactivity within medicines would be radium. In 1898 Marie and Pierre Curie first found a piece of radium in a sample of uraninite. Uranium was used to treat a wide range of ailments. An example of radioactive treatments is ‘Revigator’ (water with radium dissolved into it). It claimed that radium water could cure arthritis, flatulence and other ailments.

What’s the problem?

  • Arsenic can be very toxic and also contains the properties to be carcinogenic, mutagenetic and corrosive. It is very dangerous and can also be used as a poison.
  • Mercury is very toxic and harmful to the immune, nervous and digestive system. Mercury can be absorbed into the body through inhalation and ingestion. Although, mercury is still used till this day within dentistry in amalgam fillings.
  • Historical medicines containing radioactivity can cause damage to healthy cells in the body and damage internal organs.

All of these elements can be very dangerous to our health but also beneficial. Scientists have completed a large body of research and studies to use these in helpful ways to treat modern ailments such as radiation therapy for cancer and arsenic trioxide used as chemotherapy drugs called either Trisenoc or ATO.

Examples in collections

Unfortunately, we currently do not have images of the hazardous medicines within our collections. Fear not, I thought I would give you the chance to see some images of the pharmacy exhibit we have at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell!

The Pharmacy at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell
The Pharmacy at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell
The Pharmacy (Dispensary) at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell

If you’re missing going to museums and want to learn and see more about the pharmacy check out this link where Gemma gives us a tour of the 1920s pharmacy at the Museum of Norwich!

A tour of the 1920s Pharmacy at the Museum of Norwich – YouTube

Hazardously,

Hemali

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Hazards: Asbestos(sed)

By Hemali Chudasama, Collections Management (Hazards) Trainee

Asbestos was one of the first hazards I came across in the collection which was during my time volunteering at the Science Museum. As a volunteer I was only allowed to handle low risk asbestos objects. and I have to say It was one of the best introductions to asbestos I have it was a great starting point for me when I started my project here at NMS. So far, I am finishing off a management plan and risk assessment for asbestos in collections and looking forward to getting on site and seeing what objects we have that contain asbestos!

What’s asbestos I hear you say? Well I guess it’s time for a mini history less with Hemali!

Hazardous History 101

  • Actinolite (Serpentine asbestos mineral)
  • Amosite (Serpentine asbestos mineral) (Brown)
  • Anthophyllite (Serpentine asbestos mineral)
  • Chrysolite (Amphibole asbestos mineral) (White)
  • Crocidolite (Serpentine asbestos mineral) (Blue)
  • Tremolite (Serpentine asbestos mineral)

Welcome to history 101 with Hemali, today’s lesson we are going over the history of asbestos. Asbestos is a term that refers to six naturally occurs silicate minerals:

All types of asbestos are fibrous which is one of the main constitutes to why it is hazardous to health, but more on that later. The different between serpentine and amphibole asbestos is the appearance of the fibre. Serpentine are long, curly and flexible whether as amphibole fibres are stiff, straight and short.

The word asbestos comes from the ancient Greek and mean “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable”

So, when was it first used?

Asbestos was first thought to appear in Sweden, Greece and Cyprus in asbestos mine around 5000 BC. In 4000 BC, asbestos was used as wicks for lamps and around 2000 – 3000 BC asbestos cloth was used to wrap embalmed bodies of Egyptian Pharaohs to protect their body from deterioration.

  • In the UK it was widely used from the 18th century.
  • It was extensively manufactured from the 19th century onward
  • Leo Bakelite invented Bakelite in 1909
  • Asbestos peak usage was around 1950s-70s
  • 1985 Crocidolite ban (blue asbestos) and complete ban in 1999 (all forms)

Example objects containing asbestos: Paint, Hairdryers, toasters, Ovens and oven gloves and housing insulation and in Atrex ceilings.

Why was it so popular?

Thinking of the properties of asbestos, it really is a wonder material as well as a really cheap and widely available material. Asbestos was used as electrical, acoustic and heat insulation as well as incorporated with other products such as resins (e.g. Bakelite), cement and vinyls. It is also very resistant to friction (great for brake pedals) and corrosive chemicals. All sounds great, right? Wrong.

So, what’s the problem?

Asbestos is highly dangerous due to its fibrous and friable nature. If asbestos is disturbed it can become airborne and inhaled which can cause many asbestos related diseases such as cancer. The issue with becoming exposed to asbestos fibres is that health issues can develop decades later as it damages the human body cells over time.

Examples in the collection

Okay, so what do we have in the collection? From completing desk based survey I have a list of objects reading to check when I get on site, but I’ve chosen two interesting objects from the list to show you today.

First up we have this children’s Mickey Mouse Gas mask. Like all the other gas masks from WWI and WWII, the filters within the mask contain asbestos (Crocidolite, blue asbestos). You should also be aware of residual chemicals on the masks from the war period. If you have a gas mask from that period of time, please don’t put it over your face unless you know it did not contain an asbestos filter.

Next, we have an electric hairdryer by Morphy Richards from the 1950. Hairdryers were lined with asbestos insulation around the internal heating area. The fibres would then be released through the dryer as the fibres would release once the dryer was turned on. This hairdryer actually contains asbestos as it is made out of Bakelite.

Stay tuned till next time where we look at another hazard!

PSA – Please don’t scrub your Artex ‘popcorn’ celling (pre 1999) without the appropriate PPE. Its all fun and games until you realise there’s asbestos in there. I may or may not have seen many videos of this on Instagram.

Hazardously,

Hemali

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Historian’s Creed: Valhalla (Part One)

By Hanley Quintrell, Collections Management (Digitisation) Trainee

In a roundabout way, video games brought me into museums. Sure, I was dragged to a few as a kid, and used to pop into free galleries while killing time as a teenager, but history wasn’t particularly interesting to me until we got a PS3.

It had been redundant for a couple years by that point, so it was cheaper to get one as a streaming machine than any of the contemporary alternatives. I occasionally watched as my partner had a blast gaming, but generally the violence tended to be a little too much for me.

It was a totally normal day when he brought home Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag – up until he screamed at me excitedly to come at once and see this. I put down my book to join him, discovering a new hobby and eventually, a new career. I had no interest in the naval gameplay, the Golden Age of Piracy setting, or in anything, really – until he restarted the game so I could see the introduction of the only Welsh lead character I’d seen outside of our own fiction. (Well, and the Doctor Who universe, which apparently only extends as far as Wales. TARDIS’. Everywhere.)

William Joy’s (1803 – 1856) Ship anchored off-shore, ready to boarded by pirates.

Just like that, I became a gamer. Wanting to see more of protagonist Edward Kenway myself, without having to wait for my partner to progress, I dove in for an accent and came out obsessed with the period, composing reading lists to find the fact from the fiction – and then I discovered it was a whole series set in different locations and times throughout history, becoming an amateur historian in those periods, too. As history opened up to me, so did the world, and working somewhere like a museum began to seem a remote, yet plausible, possibility.

So when I was lucky enough to be selected for a traineeship this year, I knew I wanted to find some way to bring video games with me, as I know I’m not the only one who’s become an armchair historian; fiction is the only route many of us take into the past, and I’m certain there are people out there who’d love to see the collection, they just don’t know museums are for them yet. If I can make that journey, why can’t someone else?

How Historically Accurate is Crash Bandicoot Warped?

My first step into this was a fun one, researching the medieval sections of Crash Bandicoot Warped, matching objects in the Collection to assets in the game … but that was only leading to the main event.

The new Assassins Creed game has parts set in Norfolk. 800s East Anglia, in fact. Quite good timing for someone working on the project restoring medieval elements of Norwich Castle. So that’s what I’m working on now – an exploration of a time our local history was shaped very differently, when even the castle was yet to exist.

At a time when many of us are unable to explore the beauty found in Norfolk, I cannot wait to show you how the series which brought history to my life will do the same for you.

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The Wonderful World of Hazards

By Hemali Chudasama, Collections Management (Hazards) Trainee

It’s been a whirlwind these past few months since I started the traineeship. What has it been, 7 months since I stepped into the world of hazards? I’m getting ahead of myself, I’m Hemali and I am one of the teaching museum’s collections trainees working on a project to manage the hazardous objects in collections. Starting the traineeship in the midst of the pandemic really did throw a spanner in the works! It completely changed the whole dynamic of the traineeship. There went all the hands-on work, and in came a load of uncertainty. Thankfully, with the amazing staff at NMS, we were able to find a way around a bad situation.

Prior to this role, I had a bit of experience with hazardous objects in collections from volunteering at The Science Museum. This proved to be an extremely helpful starting point when researching hazardous object as I had an idea of what I was looking for. What I found to be the most useful when I started was the Museum of London’s Hazards in Collections toolkit. Anyone thinking about hazards, this is the first place you want to go, trust me! This toolkit gave a good indicator of the variety of hazards you could come across in different collections such as asbestos, mercury, radiation, poisons etc. I know it sounds like a scary list of objects to work with, trust me I was thinking of running for the hills, but they are not as bad as you think. Most of them are encapsulated in the object so pose no immediate threat, very low risk or pose risk only if ingested such as arsenic minerals (I highly recommend that no one does this, please!).

After this, I researched all the hazards and created a management plan and risk assessment for each one to be added to the collections database (MODES). Along with this, I have started desk-based surveys to flag up hazardous objects to be checked when we can return to our museums. I recently came out of a meeting discussing implementing hazard icons next to flagged objects and it was strangely one of the most satisfying things I have seen since I started the project, who would have thought?!

As much as I love hazards, it’s not the only thing I have been doing during my traineeship. I have had the opportunity to attend multiple Museum Association webinars and Collections Trust bite size sessions. I highly recommend anyone that is interested in the museum sector or already in the industry to watch these. It’s very important to keep up with what is happening in all sectors of the museum industry especially in times like this! I have also had a chance be exposed to different aspects of collections management such as loans and acquisitions as well as working on the emergency plans for the museum. I am grateful for all the experiences I’ve had so far and looking forward to seeing what the rest of the traineeship holds!

Don’t worry, there are more hazard posts to come in the future but for now I leave you with one of the first asbestos containing objects I found when starting the traineeship, a Bakelite Radio.

Hazardously,

Hemali 

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Say Hello to the 2020 Collections Trainees

This year was always going to be interesting for the Collections Department of Norfolk Museum Service, with a major transformation of Norwich Castle set to begin, but nobody could have predicted how different this year truly has been!

Following another excellent round of applications, we were joined earlier this year by not one but two trainees – Hemali and Hanley. We think we’re long overdue some proper introductions!

By our fellow trainee Kelly West

Hemali joins us as the Hazards Trainee, assisting in our Hazards Project – so look out for the wacky side of health and safety!

A trained photographer, Hemali volunteered with both the Science Museum and the V&A so, luckily for 2020, comes to us with hands on experience and a deep enthusiasm for everything Collections!

By our fellow trainee Kelly West

Hanley is our second trainee this year, joining us as our Digitisation Trainee, supporting our Project Officer in delivering the digital arm of the Royal Palace Reborn project.

Hanley is completely new to the museum sector, previously working in theatre, and brings along transferable skills and an excitement for discovery; especially useful in these digital times!

The NMS Trainees of 2020, by Kelly West

Hanely and Hemali are joined by 8 other trainees across the service, and are extremely excited to continue showing you more behind the scenes experiences from working in our busy Collections Department.

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