Our museum, The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum, will be 150 years old in September. Originally known as the Albert Institute and later as Dundee Museum, the museum has been through a lot of changes over the years. One of the tasks we curators are undertaking is research into the archives to uncover stories about the museum and its objects. We are also finding out more about our predecessors and how our jobs have changed over the years. My current job title is ‘Curator of Early History’. I have also been known as ‘Heritage Officer’ in exactly the same post. Past staff have been known as keepers, assistant keepers and field archaeology officers. The museum used to have its own field archaeology unit and it looks like they had some interesting times, undertaking rescue excavations and getting called out to determine if some recently discovered bones were anything to worry about. Sadly, the field unit is no more and it is my job to look after the things they excavated, as well as the museum’s World Cultures and numismatics collections and also the collection of phrenology heads, the re-discovery of which in 1983 earned a mention in several newspapers.
Though our job titles have changed and sometimes there have been more of us or fewer of us (but never enough of us), our aims remain the same – to preserve the collections and to share them with as many people as possible. Let’s hope the museum has many more anniversaries to come.