Eat The Frog – Part Four

The Trainee Curators programme was set up to diversify the cultural workforce in Cornish museums and historical sites by offering more accessible opportunities to young people. In turn, diversifying the museums audiences and using their collections more widely.

In our new mini-blog-series, we share with you a behind the scenes look at what our Trainee Curators are getting up to now they are having to work from home, due to COVID-19. You can also keep up to date with them on their Twitter Page where they share regular updates and posts.

Next up is Katie Sawyer of Bodmin Keep…

Like so many people, my role as a Trainee Curator at Bodmin Keep: Cornwall’s Army Museum has recently shifted to be digital and from home. This unfortunately means I can’t work with our artefacts, but a surprisingly large number of our projects have converted well to being online.

Although I worked from home during university, I seem to have forgotten how to do it effectively! I can’t even blame my cats for distracting me, as they mostly sleep all day. I’ve tried several productivity methods to help me kickstart my schedule, with varying results.

 

Pomodoro method

Split larger projects into mini tasks, solely focus on them for 25 minute bursts, then take a 5 minute break (a Pomodoro). Repeat this until you reach 4 Pomodoro’s, at which point you take a longer (15-30 minute) break.

For me, this is effective at forcing you to focus on a task you’ve been neglecting, as you only have to concentrate for 25 minutes. However it creates more pressure to make every minute productive, and can feel micro-managed. It’s most helpful for jumpstarting difficult tasks.

 

Eat the Frog

Despite the weird name, this method suggests that you do your most difficult task (the frog) in the morning, so that its over and you’ve started your day productively. For some this might work, but I am incredibly sluggish in the morning, and prefer to gently wake up than throw myself into tasks requiring lots of brain power.

 

Zen to Done

Pick three ‘Most Important Tasks’ and focus on only them all day until you have completed them, as well as focusing on changing one habit at a time. Unfortunately I rebelliously ignore those tasks just because I should do them. In the end, this method has worked best for me, when combined with an incentive such as watching TV or reading in the evening. So if I don’t do the tasks, I don’t get the reward. Basically I need to use puppy logic of training with treats!

My other big mental shift has been to accept that it’s okay not to be super productive by taking up loads of new hobbies during this weird time. If crafting and learning helps you relax and distract, then great! But equally, if you need to re-read your favourite books and make a blanket fort, that’s fine too. It’s okay to not be okay.

 

-Katie Sawyer

Bodmin Keep

Follow Katie on Twitter 

Get Up, Get Dressed – Part Three

The Trainee Curators programme was set up to diversify the cultural workforce in Cornish museums and historical sites by offering more accessible opportunities to young people. In turn, diversifying the museums audiences and using their collections more widely.

In our new mini-blog-series, we share with you a behind the scenes look at what our Trainee Curators are getting up to now they are having to work from home, due to COVID-19. You can also keep up to date with them on their Twitter Page where they share regular updates and posts.

Next up is Sian Powell of Wheal Martyn Clay Works…

At the start of the third week of the UK lockdown, I settled into a good routine and developed my own strategies of separating home and work space. I am still working on a couple of projects, which I had been working on before the lockdown, but the sudden lack of deadlines for anything amidst the uncertainty was an initial challenge. I struggled in the first week to get used to the changes, not only of work, but of the wider world as a whole. Although worries surrounding the pandemic are not to be dismissed, I am now in a place where I am feeling excited about future projects for Wheal Martyn and how best to get digital content out there for people to enjoy from their homes.

The need for art, culture and entertainment is important now more than ever and I believe museums are the perfect places to share our expertise and collections in any way we can. This pandemic has made communication absolutely vital and museums must continue to communicate and engage with their audiences.

One thing helping me during these uncertain times is sticking to a normal working week, and keeping some semblance of a routine; making sure I still get up and get dressed as I would for a normal working day – no pyjamas unfortunately! And a great tip which I find helps is to make sure I put away my work laptop at the end of each day, and take it out of the case again in the morning.

I am lucky to be part of a supportive group of fellow trainees and we are regularly keeping in contact with one another and checking up on each other’s wellbeing. I look forward to the next 6 months of my internship and aim to learn as much as I can!

-Sian Powell

Trainee Curator, Wheal Martyn

Moving Forwards by Looking Back – Part Two

The Trainee Curators programme was set up to diversify the cultural workforce in Cornish museums and historical sites by offering more accessible opportunities to young people. In turn, diversifying the museums audiences and using their collections more widely.

In our new mini-blog-series, we share with you a behind the scenes look at what our Trainee Curators are getting up to now they are having to work from home, due to COVID-19. You can also keep up to date with them on their Twitter Page where they share regular updates and posts.

Next up is Rachel Haddy of Museum of Cornish Life…

It happened very quickly. When I say “it,” you know what I mean; that unimaginable shift in daily life which saw high streets hushed by an eerie silence and cultural institutions close their doors to visitors. For the past two weeks, my working landscape has taken a different shape. As Trainee Curator at The Museum of Cornish Life I usually spend 60% of my day documenting our art store, 5% climbing ladders (supported by colleagues, of course!), 20% curating displays and 15% supplying our fabulous band of volunteers with coffee (I pretend to do this for the good of our workforce, but chatting with volunteers is always the highlight of my working day). The Museum’s temporary closure has led to me working remotely on Museum policy and focussing on digital content, culminating in a very valid learning experience, just one I wasn’t expecting.

I returned to the Museum for the first time yesterday to carry out some essential building checks. It was odd, undeniably, to see the cobbled pathways empty of visitors and no name but my own on the sign-in sheet. The balcony where I’d been working on art store documentation had a certain “Mary Celeste” vibe; a haphazard collection of acid-free paper, easels and open notebooks undisturbed by tremors outside the Museum’s doors. The stillness of it all was unsettling at first but when I took a moment to look around me, to consider the objects and stories held by the Museum of Cornish Life, I felt steadily reassured. This is not the first time the durability of collective human spirit has been tested and I need only to look at our wartime collection to remember that. In challenging times history, particularly social history, is of vital importance. It is the pulling together of tangible truths, narratives of hardship and survival which give us the strength to move forwards. And in this moment, we ourselves are making history. I am certain that one day “Stay at Home, Save Lives” posters will be displayed in glass cases, much like the “Your Country Needs You” notices of WW1. Archived footage of people lining the streets and clapping for carers will play on loop in museums whilst oral history projects will document the kindness of strangers. Future generations will face challenges of their own, and know they can survive, because we did.

When it’s difficult to vision what the future looks like, it’s easy to feel daunted. But in those moments when I take a breath and consider just what’s happened over the past three weeks, I feel overwhelmingly proud; proud of my colleagues whose enduring creativity and humour bring light to the most uncertain times, proud of my fellow trainees for their commitment to supporting one another and proud to work for an institution which is stitched resolutely together by the seams of human stories. It seems to me that sometimes the only way to move forwards is by standing together and looking back.

 

-Rachel Haddy

Trainee Curator, The Museum of Cornish Life

A Traineeship From Home – Part One

The Trainee Curators programme was set up to diversify the cultural workforce in Cornish museums and historical sites by offering more accessible opportunities to young people. In turn, diversifying the museums audiences and using their collections more widely.

In our new mini-blog-series, we share with you a behind the scenes look at what our Trainee Curators are getting up to now they are having to work from home, due to COVID-19. You can also keep up to date with them on their Twitter Page where they share regular updates and posts.

First up is Sarah Waite of Bodmin Keep…

I’ve been working for the past few months as a Trainee Curator for Bodmin Keep: Cornwall’s Army Museum, part of a programme organised by Cornwall Museums Partnership. One of the things I was enjoying most about the traineeship was the opportunity to work directly with the collections; cleaning and packing objects, installing new displays and exploring our collections store.

However, that aspect of my job for the time being is completely obsolete. My day to day work now involves me and my laptop. The most exciting object I get to handle is my kettle, and maybe a custard cream. I never thought I’d miss the feeling of my hands slowly pruning after several hours stuck in a pair of nitrile gloves.

That being said, I have a lot of work that I can do from home, and projects which translate perfectly into a digital format. A gallery display I was curating will now be launched as an online exhibition. Souvenirs and Spoils will explore objects which were collected by soldiers, regiments and army museums to record memories about conflicts abroad.

Having a photo-based exhibition online means that I can include objects that I wouldn’t have been able to physically fit in the display case. Another unique aspect of online curating means that I can embed hyperlinks into the text which can direct the user to other webpages on our website, offering them more in-depth information on certain objects.

Working in isolation certainly requires diligence, but it also requires self-compassion. And snacks. Here are some of the ways I have approached my traineeship from home:

  1. Use your extra time not commuting to work to get in some exercise.

Since becoming house bound, I exercise before every workday to get my body and brain energised before I have to sit down in the same place for hours. The Central YMCA gym are offering free half hour exercise classes live-streamed on their Facebook page every morning at 8 am. Making sure I do one of those classes every morning makes me feel like I’ve achieved something before I’ve even started to work.

  1. Indulge in making some elaborate ‘To Do’ lists.

I love ‘To Do’ lists and now might have a slight addiction to Trello since the management at Bodmin Keep decided that our team should all start using it. It’s a site which enables you to set up ‘boards’ with multiple lists that you can continuously edit to reflect your ongoing progress. I have one which I update every morning to plan what tasks I will tackle that day. I also have a few that monitor larger ongoing projects and future plans, and also one that records completed tasks. The latter is very satisfying to watch grow.

  1. Stay connected with colleagues.

The team at Bodmin Keep have a Zoom call every morning at the same time, and then following that, I have a catch up with my line manager and Katie, our other trainee. This has been brilliant not only for making sure that I’m definitely at my desk and appropriately dressed by 10am, but it’s a constant reminder that I am working as part of a team who rely on each other. It’s easy to feel that I’m in my own world when working from home but checking in with the team reminds me that we are all in this together.

  1. Read and watch.

I’m putting in some efforts to stay updated with what is happening in our sector during this strange time. I like to keep an eye on the Museums Association’s news page as well as checking in with my favourite museums to see how they are responding to the lockdown. The Google Arts and Culture site is also brilliant for when I need a cultural fix myself and is a model of best practice for digital engagement. Ever wondered how astronauts use the toilet in space? I did. Google arts and culture will direct you to a video on the topic made by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Thanks guys.

You can follow what I’m up to on Twitter and get notified when Souvenirs and Spoils launches later this month.

 

-Sarah Waite

Trainee Curator, Bodmin Keep