Here our most recent intern, Hannah Perry – a student at UCL Qatar, describes her placement at the Manchester Museum, and the experience of working on collections.
As part of my Museum and Gallery Practice MA at University College London-Qatar, I carried out a one-month placement with Manchester Museum. The aims of the placement were to apply the skills learned throughout the course towards an institution of our interest. An art history student focusing on ancient Egyptian art as an undergraduate in the States, I was very excited for this opportunity to work with Manchester’s Ancient Egyptian collection!
Throughout my time here, I worked on a project photographing and documenting over 1,000 of the 16,000 objects in Manchester’s Egyptian collection. Among these objects were bronze statuettes, ivories, animal specimens, coffin casings, jewelry and much more. All photographs and information were uploaded to the Manchester Museum records database, which are made available to the public via the museum website. This was a particularly fulfilling task for me, considering I have lived in many regions with little to none ancient Egyptian collections, I am very appreciative of museum initiatives to share online collections.
It came immediately to me that Manchester Museum is very different from the institutions I am familiar with in the Gulf. In Qatar, it has been an incredible experience to witness the formative years of world-class museums. As they were born in the digital age, collections have grown simultaneously in both their physical acquisition and digital experience. In Manchester, on the other hand, the collection has been in the works since the 19th century- well documented in book after book of museum records. The objects I recorded were accompanied by notes from generations of curators and keepers, often times just as exciting as the objects themselves. For me, every object was a fascinating discovery, and I could imagine for many museums, revisiting stored objects for database entry may sometimes result in exciting rediscoveries as well.
Although the process of record keeping may seem tedious to some, my work at the Manchester Museum turned out to be an invaluable experience. Museum catalogues and databases, important to the non-local public, are often taken for granted. I gained an insight into the huge amount of work involved in recording a collection as large and historic as Manchester’s Egyptian collection. Although I have previously learned to maintain and create museum database in a classroom setting, it was not until I applied these skills at the Manchester Museum that I actually grew to appreciate the process. Now I can only hope to continue this work somewhere as incredible as the Manchester Museum!