The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship


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Collecting in East Anglia

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Daisy, curatorial trainee in the Art Department at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery. https://nmsteachingmuseum.wordpress.com/

We’re now over seven months into our traineeships and things are going very well here in the Art Department. My experiences have been varied, often challenging and always exciting; I visited Leeds Art Gallery for the opening of British Art Show 8 (opening in Norwich on 25th June 2016), delivered a training session to my fellow trainees on British Studio Ceramics, worked with volunteer Keith to photograph a large collection and dealt with a number of unique enquiries.

British Art Show 8

British Art Show 8: Caroline Achaintre, ‘Todo Custo’, 2015, Tufted Wool

It’s fair to say I’ve done a lot of interesting stuff. Most notable, perhaps, has been my contribution to the exhibition ‘Collecting in East Anglia’ which I helped my colleague Hannah Higham, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, curate and deliver. It’s been a multi-faceted process; exciting, challenging and the result of a cross-departmental effort.

Here’s how it went…

In July we created the long object list. The concept for the exhibition, which had been in the pipeline for some time, was focused on showcasing the museum’s recent acquisitions. I used Modes, our collections management system, to isolate paintings, prints and sculptures which had entered our collections in the last five years. Hannah and I talked about which to include and which to discount. Before long they formed natural groups, allowing us to explore another angle: how they came to be here. Were they bequests? Gifts from the artist? Or were they donated in lieu of inheritance tax?

modes list

Our long list printed from Modes

With the long list complete, the Conservation team checked over the works and those deemed too delicate were mostly omitted, though some were remounted for display. Further curatorial considerations were discussed; do we need to show all four Cedric Morris drawings or will a pair represent the collection sufficiently? How will including a long term loan enhance the acquisitions story?

Having worked separately on accessioning a large collection of British Studio Ceramics, I was confident in curating a display to feature in the gallery. The pots had been acquired by bequest at the start of the year and up until then the museum had been less comprehensive in its collections of this kind. ‘Collecting in East Anglia’ presented the perfect opportunity to show them to the public.

Deciding what should go where...

Deciding what should go where…

We’d made our choices and were ready to begin researching for the label text. Hannah and I divided the works between us and I spent the following few weeks reading about Graham Sutherland’s thorn imagery, Walter Sickert’s relationship with Venice and the lifelong friendship of Cedric Morris and Lett Haines. Once we’d written, checked and edited our text I liaised with the Design team to have our labels produced.

Working on our labels

Working on our labels

We worked with our technicians to hang the works and with Building Services to configure the gallery lighting. It was quite a feat getting the lighting just right on the glass tower case but I love how it casts these subtle shadows on the wall behind:

I selected 15 pots to show a range of potters, glazes, techniques and object types

I selected 15 pots to show a range of potters, glazes, techniques and object types

I'm holding a light meter here - the lux level for this oil painting should be no more than 250

I’m holding a light meter here – the lux level for this oil painting should be no more than 250

Installation was great fun; it was exciting to be in the thick of it, to see our plans realised on the walls around us. It was a particularly special moment when the beautiful Barbara Hepworth sculpture (on loan from a private collection), arrived on site and was slowly hoisted into place. It has recently been restored in the Conservation Lab at Gressenhall and now sits centre-stage in the gallery.

Navigating the bronze Barbara Hepworth sculpture through the museum

Navigating the bronze Barbara Hepworth sculpture through the museum

Overall, this has been a fantastic project. I’ve learnt a lot and am both proud of the outcome and grateful to have been involved from start to finish. ‘Collecting in East Anglia’ is now open in the Timothy Gurney Gallery at Norwich Castle and will be until May next year. I recommend a visit!

The final result!

The final result!


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Art at Norwich Castle

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Daisy, curatorial trainee in the Art Department at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery. https://nmsteachingmuseum.wordpress.com/

First of all, there couldn’t have been a more exciting time to begin my traineeship than in the midst of the ARTIST ROOMS: Jeff Koons installation back in April. Koons is arguably one of the world’s most famous (and controversial!) artists of our time and here I was stood in the gallery watching the ‘inflatable’ caterpillar be unboxed. I still can’t believe it’s made of aluminium!

‘Caterpillar Chains’ – Jeff Koons

It’s an incredible privilege to be involved in such exciting, important projects. Being part of the Art and Exhibitions team, my work is always varied; I have dealt with object enquiries, supervised filmmakers and visiting curators, been involved in post-exhibition evaluation for Homage to Manet and am also responsible for accessioning a collection of 20th Century British Studio ceramics, including many beautiful works by potters such as Lucie Rie, David Leach and the Martin Brothers. It’s been wonderful researching this collection so far and I look forward to continuing.

During the past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time in the Print Store, one of my favourite places in the building. I am co-curating an exhibition of works on paper, due to open in the Colman Watercolour Gallery next April. It’s exciting to delve into such a vast collection, to create object lists and to learn more about the artists and their techniques.

Taking a look through the Print Collection

print room 2 edit

Checking for light damage

I am also co-curating Collecting in East Anglia, a rehang of the Timothy Gurney Gallery. This will display mostly 20th Century Art (oils, prints and sculptures) and look at the ways in which recent acquisitions have come into our collection. I will include some of the British Studio pots and will be involved in research and label writing. The exhibition will launch this autumn so there is lots to do in the coming weeks!

Considering works for new exhibition ‘Collecting in East Anglia’

On the other end of the spectrum from the more traditional curatorial work, I have also had experience with events! As well as assisting at a conference and an artist’s book launch, I recently organised and delivered a Koons event for local bloggers, the first bloggers’ event at Norwich Castle; before the museum opened one morning, local online content creators came along for a networking breakfast and a private tour of the exhibition. It was very rewarding to see it all come together and to read some fantastic write-ups and social media posts about the event from those that attended.

Koons Bloggers Breakfast at Norwich Castle

Koons Bloggers Breakfast at Norwich Castle

Other highlights of the traineeship so far would definitely include my trip to the Fitzwilliam Museum with my supervisor where we spent a day exploring the decorative art store, as well as the development programme sessions each Friday with my fellow trainees. We have received training in all aspects of museum work from Conservation to Learning and recently participated in a week-long Summer School for Looked After Children.

I look back on myself three and a half months ago and I’m astonished at how much I’ve learnt and experienced since then. Without question this traineeship will prove invaluable in launching my career in museums.