Paul Thompson, Keeper of Collections (By day anyway….)
Today’s guest blog is from Paul Thompson, Keeper of Collections.
The telephone rang and I gingerly picked it up expecting trouble – however, it was an enquiry from the front desk. Someone had brought in an object for identification and, as I had a hot cup of tea in front of me cooling, I thought I would go and see what it was! It turned out to be a 14th century medieval tile with a pattern, so I gave as much information as I could and then returned to my desk. I sat there with my tea and thought back over the last few weeks of my curatorial life here at the Herbert.
Secret Egypt has taken up a good deal of my attention. I’ve been searching for suitable images and thinking about how they will be displayed in the final exhibition next year.
I gave a paper on recent archaeological work undertaken in Coventry at the Society of Museum Archaeologists conference which the Herbert hosted in mid-November. I wrote a new talk about Iron Age and Roman remains never before encountered within the city as well as the expected medieval remains. It was well received by all. On the final conference day, I took a group around the city to show them our three cathedrals, St. Mary’s Guildhall, Golden Cross, Stone House and Whitefriars. These events are always networking opportunities and a chance to catch up on current archaeological academic gossip.
Also, excitement abounds with Midlands Today wanting information on the bomb craters of the city…. A few have been found during archaeological work, but sadly only one is still extant from 70 years ago. It’s located on private land. However, I was to see the film crew again on Sunday 14 November when they came to film the emotionally charged surroundings of the ruined Cathedral for the Blitz anniversary. I was in attendance dressed in ARP Warden period clothing and operated the siren at 7:15 pm, the time when the first German bombers flew over Coventry and started 11 hours of destruction. This was an evocative experience with searchlights and a clear sky (perfect night flying weather) that will never happen again….
One of our regular Collection Conversations was held recently. Here, visitors can talk to one of the curators and handle some objects not normally on display. This is a great chance to see things up close and in new ways so it’s always popular. It reminds us as curators that people are interested in our objects for many different reasons and often tell us stories or make fascinating connections.
So it’s been a busy week, I’ve also been accessioning the new archaeological archives that have come into our care. There are a number of commercial digging units that work in the area such as Warwick, Birmingham and Northampton. My task is to check the material when it comes in, catalogue it, then possibly photograph important items. It’s not the ‘Indy Jones’ archaeological work most people think of, but it’s incredibly important for care of the collections.
The natural history side of me will be in action later in the week working with some artists and our shell collection to create ceramic art works. It is exciting to work with different people but it’s also a chance to be creative and explore the collections. For me, working with artists is a fabulous way to use collections that otherwise would not be on show.
I finished the dregs of the Earl Grey and placed my stoneware vessel on the Formica next to the telephone. Secret Egypt images spinning through my head, I returned to the screen but my concentration was interrupted. A canine barked in the background and the telephone rang….
Posted on 22/11/2010, in Collections and tagged archaeology, blitz, collections, coventry, Coventry Cathedral, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Society of Museum Archaeologists. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.