A post from Collectibulldogs blogger Eiffion Ashdown, new volunteer at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.
Hi readers of the Royal Pavilion & Museum [RPM]’s amazing blog section. I’m Eiffion or Ave to most and I’ve blogged before so this is my second for RPM.
First, a little bit about me. I am a local resident and founder/ creator of Collectibulldogs.
Starting in 2009 the collection has grown since and it is now one of the world’s best curated bulldog collections with pieces chosen from all forms of material and age related to this breed. My collection stayed a well-kept secret in Brighton until some of it became part of an exhibition by a local group Museum Mentors at Brighton Museum. My collection stayed up from May till October 2017 making it the first bulldog exhibition in the world.
This blog is all about my brand new volunteer placement at Brighton Museum graciously given to me by RPM.
I’ll start with my manners and thank all those that turn those cogs and have put trust in myself and self worth as well as my own skill set. I hope that my first decade in collecting will be able to be useful as I move forward assisting the curators in all they do.
My first day
Ok so it’s not every day that I go out, let alone get a haircut, buy new shoes and coat and try and look as dapper as possible without over stating myself. The fact I got this role empowered me to have the self-confidence to do all that and with a spring in my step. I believe in first impressions but could of worn any clothing. I wasn’t instructed to and the only stipulation was to be aware of belt buckles, zips and watches and the damage they could cause by scratching objects.
I arrived early at Brighton Museum and first went to the security area to sign in. I made my way up to the Museum Lab to meet “Lucy the pupil’s master” (a joke for my Collections mentor).
We started straight away on the Dos and Don’ts mainly around holding objects, what gloves to wear and, as always, finding out the important areas, such as where the tea is – please note, only jesting. I have had my induction about the really vital things to know such as fire safety.
After the chat, the introductions and a look at the museum’s huge collections database, Mimsy, it was time to get to work.
My first task involves re-packing and cataloguing a collection of spectacles. The Local History and Archaeology collection has over 80 examples, dating from the early 20th century.
They have different styles and materials and quite a few are broken. Many were given to the museum by one donor who worked for the British and Overseas Optical Missions, an organisation that would take unwanted spectacles and refurbish them for people who could not afford new glasses, in countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.
The spectacles, like all objects in the museum collections, each have their own register or accession number.
My responsibility at the moment is to replace the old paper numbers, that have been glued on the spectacles, with new little cotton and card tags.
Nowadays, where ways to conserve have changed for the better, some old systems need to change where they can. For example, there’s an ostrich-egg stand in the Museum Lab cabinets where collectibulldogs.com held the bulldog exhibition. This object has its accession markings done (and in red) where it cannot easily be removed without maybe having to damage the piece. So it’s important to get these changes underway ASAP on the objects in the museum that can and warrant this, so I’m looking at old spectacles taking the number, adding a tag and placing in a bag for protection.
They say if you love what you do it’s not work and I realised this for the first time in my life on the first day of my volunteering. As I like to play with words, I used time in the title. This is because it went so fast even my disorder (for a better understanding please follow this link https://www.ocduk.org/) kicked in thinking it was a first timer’s practical joke or I wasn’t really wanted at the museum. Obviously the opposite had happened and I loved what I was doing so much, the time had just scooted past me and before I knew it I was back in the security area signing out. BUT this time with a massive grin from ear to ear. I had not let anything ruin my first day back at work and it went as one would say “according to plan”.
Fingers crossed for me please
Knowing I’ve just started I’d be a fibber if I didn’t say I’m worried already about my first review. I feel my two month start will be all the learning I’ll get from this role. I’m wishing with all my might that the review is just to see if I like what I’m doing and carry on. I believe my time, effort and skill set has its own merit and hope that I can stay eventually, becoming a known face around the grounds.
I’d also like those fingers crossed for any upcoming opportunities regarding my own collection of bulldogs. I won’t bark on about it but wouldn’t it be great if collectibulldogs could arrange it so that a pop-up museum could be installed in one of RPM’s museums and this has been talked about, so another dream could eventually become reality.
Pop in and say hi
The Museum Lab is the old reference library and History Centre (upstairs in Brighton Museum) and I’m often there Friday afternoons for now, so come and say hello but please check Museum Lab opening days and times.
One could hope for more hours eventually so hopefully if that happens I can get to meet even more of you guys and gals and you can come see (no pun intended about the spectacles) what I’m doing with the work I’m on and even meet Lucy too, one of Sussex’s best Collections Assistants (they all are but I work with Lucy).
I will be advertising independent of the RPM brand yet the publicity is for them and to hopefully help get more visitors to come and see not just the collections but a standing icon of the south (the Royal Pavilion). You can find other blogs on the museum on my own website and the content will of course be different.
Thank you and lastly
Thank you all for reading my first day back at work. Sorting through old spectacles and re-registering them maybe mundane but I absolutely loved my fleeting work time and cannot wait for next week to come around so I can discuss more working time with my actual life mentor. Maybe I could swap my art group hours at Museum Mentors, I would give someone else on the waiting list my placement whilst still having my mentor there to oversee and trouble shoot.
A few words from Debbie the Project Co-ordinator
Museum Mentors project now in its 7th year is funded by the Arts Council. Group work sessions offer safe supported therapeutic activity, engaging up to 30 adults who live with disabilities. Our aim is to facilitate access to the amazing array of; objects, collections, stories and opportunities. To promote good health & wellbeing. Minimising where possible the stress and isolation often experienced by the vulnerable adults we work with. A great outcome is all the wonderful art that our members produce.
As this gets proof read before submitting by a member of the digital team who is also our fire warden (see I’m learning lol) I’m hoping, if I ask nicely enough, that they may guest blog for our website Collectibulldogs, just 300 words. A kind of review would be magic but let’s see as bureaucracy can be a pain. Before I go I’d like to reach out to any local bloggers please. My website is a domain authority of 45 and a page ranking of 48 which is amazing for such a young site and I’ve put lots of work into it. For anyone who wants to come guest, it’s totally free – and you get a great dog and antiquing loving audience.
Ps: you can find us on twitter at @collectibulldog now with 152 thousand followers.
All the best for now Brighton and beyond and be on the lookout for an upcoming article on the fine arts of the Thursday and Friday Museum Mentors groups, which run at the museum every week.
Until next time stay safe Eiffion