I am finally getting a chance to blog about my first event with the NI & ROI Museum Professional Network. It has been over a week now and I think I have had adequate time to mull over the events and the feedback we received. Overall the event was a huge success, I honestly could not have expected better feedback from all the attendees. It is extremely gratifying to see a project come to fruition. Being involved in the organisation of the event meant that I got to see how events like this one come together. As I mentioned in my previous post, it has been a lot of hard work but I definitely think it paid off.
Our facilitators were fantastic in providing us with an informative and interesting weekend. The time they gave to us was greatly appreciated and the event would not have been as successful if it were not for their expertise and professionalism. The different aspects of the weekend were all so varied and made for an exciting event.
The first place we visited was The Chester Beatty Library. Here we were provided with an insightful and passionate tour of the library and a behind the scenes talk and tour of the conservation department with the Head of Conservation Jessica Baldwin. Due to the size of the group we were split in two to allow for access to the conservation lab. My group were first to get the conservation talk and tour. This was one of my favourite parts of the day, I have always had a keen interest in conservation and the many ways we can work to protect an artefact.
Jessica’s talk was fantastic, getting to hear about all the exciting projects she works on did leave me with huge job envy! The manuscripts and scrolls she had laid out for us to look at were awe inspiring. I was also intrigued by the manner in which they deal with each item, and the different methods they use. The difference between Conservation, Restoration and Preservation were clearly explained. Having spent nine months working under the superb mentorship of Noel Breakey, the Conservator in Monaghan County Museum meant that much of what was discussed I was already familiar with.
However, the big and significant difference here being the age and provenance of the arefacts being conserved. The job of a conservator is an exciting one and also a pivotal part of the success of any institution. Your collection is the backbone of the organisation and without it museums would cease to be needed and necessary.
After our conservation tour we were treated to a tour of the permanent collection galleries. Our tour was limited to one hour and although that time frame was sufficient when we had such a jammed packed day of events, it flew by. My group was led in their tour by Mary. Mary volunteers with the museum and has been doing so for quite some time. Her passion and love for the collection really shines through. Not only was she informative but she was also highly engaging. The objects she chose to speak about were often artefacts you would walk by.
Having visited the museum on numerous occasions I can now say with certainty that a tour is the way to go. The amount of information Mary gave us was spot on, it was slightly informal yet I left having learned so much. At the end of our tour there were at least three people genuinely interested in volunteering with the Library. This I feel shows how effective the event there was, in that people were eager to return and work there.
This was a highly popular part of the weekend events. The collection in The Chester Beatty Library speaks for itself. There is nowhere else where you will get to view such an elaborate and remarkable collection of antiquities. I adore The Chester Beatty Library and would recommend that everyone visit it at least once. I have been on numerous occasions and know it won’t be long before I am back.
After the event in Chester Beatty Library we all enjoyed a wonderful lunch in their on site restaurant The Silk Road Cafe. The menu there reflects the cultures that are represented in the Library, it is an eclectic menu and the food was thoroughly enjoyable. Lunch provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the mornings activities and discuss what aspects were most rewarding. This was also a great opportunity to get to speak to members of the network and finally put a face to a name. It was wonderful to be able to share my love of history and heritage with people who are equally as passionate as me.
The next part of our day was spent at Dublin Castle. This was an exciting and thought provoking aspect of the day and warrants more space than I can devote to it here. With that in mind I have decided to give each aspect of the weekend its own blog. Makes it easier for anyone reading it and also allows me to do all our facilitators and events justice. Part II of this series of blogs will focus on ‘Attack the Castle’ an interactive workshop led by Jenny Papassotiriou.