That grey area between museums and archaeology

Museum networks are pretty strong and active in Scotland – whether an independent museum, local authority or national, a freelance curator or educator – there is a networking body for you. One such is the Scottish Museums Federation, of which I am an ordinary member, and semi-regularly write a blog post on work my work with the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF). I think of myself as being a museums person working on an archaeological project – a funny grey area where I’m not a curator, nor an archaeologist (strictly speaking). The SMF blog, then, is a really valuable way of sharing the archaeological side of my work for a museums audience, and likewise hopefully any archaeologists reading this will get an insight to a more museums-y focused project. So, this post has also been shared on the SMF blog, which you can see here.

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For a number of years now, there has been a project running called Day of Archaeology, wherein people working in the myriad different fields of archaeology (excuse the pun) write a blog post of what they have been up to that day. It’s provided a great insight to a ‘life in the day of’ archaeologists, not just in the UK but spanning all corners of the globe. Sadly, today is the last ever Day of Archaeology. I thought, then, that this might be a nice opportunity for another blog post showing where my job fits into the archaeological world, being as it is in that grey area betwixt museums and archaeology.

I’ve written a couple of posts before about my project (Museums Officer for the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework) but this will give an insight to an ‘average’ day in the ScARF office.

I start by checking emails – who doesn’t – reading up on latest museum news from various mailing lists and catching up with to-do notes I’ve left myself. Much ScARF time can be taken up with meetings, events, admin and dealing with incoming requests. With a team of two part-time staff, managing our time is crucial. But, this month is uncharacteristically office-based so it is that I’m working through panel reports and research recommendations spanning all of Scottish archaeology.

 Basketry in the care of Orkney Islands Council museum service. ©Anna MacQuarrie

Basketry in the care of Orkney Islands Council museum service. ©Anna MacQuarrie

These recommendations come from the 2012 ScARF panel reports and will form the beginning of a research framework for farming and fishing, based upon the work I’m doing with museums in Aberdeenshire and Orkney. It’s a new approach for ScARF and will take into account research on museum collections in both the aforementioned regions. A favourite part of this for me is producing maps and visual aides to help me visualise just where the collections and questions cross-over, if at all. My manager, Emma, is a whiz with data and GIS so we’re able to produce some nice maps and visuals.

Whilst all this work is very archaeological, I have to remind myself at all times that the collections in each area come front-and-centre. A quick flick through the photos I’ve amassed from visit to each area helps with this at a glance, as does the paperwork I share with my colleagues in each museum service. Their collections are broad, interesting and really speak of the places they represent.

Arbuthnot Museum whaling display, Aberdeenshire Council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

Arbuthnot Museum whaling display, Aberdeenshire Council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

When I’ve finished reading as much as I can handle in one go, I turn to thinking about the skills workshops we want to deliver, helping to bridge that gap between archaeologists and museum professionals. We’re looking at what themes and skills would be appropriate, who might be able to help us deliver and so on. Logistics, asking nicely and identifying needs – three important parts of the process.

Medieval fishing hook in the care of Aberdeenshire council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

Medieval fishing hook in the care of Aberdeenshire council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

Finally, I review what details need sorted out for forthcoming visit to our project partners – travel, accommodation, making sure everyone who needs to know does know. My next SMF blog post will be from the road, as I visit colleagues in Aberdeenshire again at the end of next month. ‘Til then – happy Day of Archaeology!

Get in touch: anna@socantscot.org

For more information on ScARF go here: http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/

For more information on the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland see here: http://www.socantscot.org/

ScARF is being funded by Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland.