Subject Specialist Knowledge: The Answers Part 1

It’s been a hot minute (read two months) since I got back from the Museums Association conference and wrote this blog post about what subject specialist knowledge means when it comes to museum professionals. I felt that the term ‘subject specialist knowledge’ is used so often that the meaning of the phrase has become a bit abstract. Ambitiously, I said I’d upload the ‘answers’ in a couple of weeks but it’s taken me so long to write these up precisely because, those snap decisions that your friendly neighbourhood curator inherently knows when thinking about museum specimens, is such a huge amount of information to type up.

So here are the six objects and the answers to the first half of the 32 questions I posted, that every good curator will know. I’d like to iterate that these are ‘easy’ ones for a natural historian and I’m sure colleagues in other fields can think of similar examples. This is the knowledge you lose when you don’t have the specialist on staff or access to a specialist or specialist network to advice. Continue reading

Subject Specialist Knowledge

I’m freshly back from this year’s Museum Association conference with some thoughts to share. The reason why conferences are so great, and I’m fortunate that both UCL and Oxford University Museum of Natural History have supported conference attendance, is that the discussions, talks and networking can restore some of the fire in the belly that the day-to-day rat race can sometimes erode.

One of the worrying undercurrents of this year’s conference was that specialist knowledge in the workforce was perhaps not essential in a climate in which many museums are having to knuckle down and weather economic cuts. Curators are dead, we were told. Subject specialist knowledge was a tertiary concern over good managers and communicators. Collections were a dirty word throughout many sessions. Museum directors, consultants, leaders, policy makers and funding bodies intimated or explicitly saw collections and curators as emblematic of the boring museums of the past. In one session it seemed that to save museums, you should piece by piece replace them so they no longer were museums.

Obviously, some of these comments are presented here out of context but I do think with the soap box of a big conference some people have lost sight of the expertise and knowledge we have in our museums. Continue reading

#MuseumTwitterati Challenge

You may have seen the #TwitteratiChallenge, and the museum spin off #MuseumTwitterati doing the rounds, and what better way to kick off this blog with some props to some of the people who inspire and engage through social media. I’ve had many fine discussion/snarkfest/lamepun interactions on Twitter and rely on it almost daily to keep up with the latest news and happenings from across the museum sector.

I’ve been nominated by friends and colleagues Paolo Viscardi and Helen Parkin (A.K.A @crazymuseumlady) both of whom inspire me back so thanks a lot guys!

The idea of the challenge, a spin off, originally started by @TeacherToolkit to “recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators [museologists] should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support“. So here we go. Continue reading