After years in the field and then at university I fell into museums by accident - I guess I was attracted by the money and the glamour, but have learned to love our visitors (despite their best efforts). I am now curator at Fishbourne Roman Palace, in West Sussex.

Another Day at the Office


Okay, this is my last post of the day and I couldn’t go without showing you a picture of our museum archaeology store. I haven’t had a chance to spend much time in the store today and that’s not unusual – it’s our team of volunteers who tend to get to work in here on the fun jobs. Instead, my day has looked something like this:

A catch-up with Amy, the curator from Chichester Museum (“The Novium”) over a coffee.

A bit of marketing for our forthcoming Festival of British Archaeology event.

Writing a reference for one of our volunteers.

Planning a forthcoming exhibition on ancient fallow deer with our Head of Learning.

Sorting out holiday cover for one of our museum guides.

Returning a some artefacts we have been conserving to their owner.

Processing a couple of invoices.

Working with the local water company who need to run a water main across our site.

Transferring an archive to The Novium.

Oh – and a fair amount of blogging for the Day Of Archaeology…


…There’s a lot more to this curating business than messing about with artefacts!


Home at Last


These few boxes in the foreground are the site archive (the finds as well as excavation records and other important documentation) from two sites to the west of Fishbourne Roman Palace. We have stored them for around 15 years but always known that they don’t come from our collecting area. Instead the come from the collecting area of Chichester Museum (“The Novium”). It seems that these archives were given to Fishbourne Roman Palace in error and should actually have been deposited with The Novium .

The collecting area is, unsurprisingly, the area from which a museum collects archaeology. Every museum should have its own area. These should not overlap and there should be no gaps. In reality, it’s rarely as simple as that!

Anyway, we have been working with The Novium to try to transfer these archives from our collection to theirs, and today we finally completed the paperwork needed involved. It has taken several months in total. Transferring an archive is not a straightforward process and involves a lot of form-filling. It is important to create a clear record that the material was once owned by the Palace and has since been passed on to The Novium. This will avoid confusion in the future and so is worth it, even if in reality the archive has only moved a few yards from one end of our shared store to the other!!


More Than Just a Brooch…

My next task today is to pack up these artefacts and send them back to their owner.

Here at Fishbourne Roman Palace we take in metal artefacts for conservation. Our team have just finished working on these two items. They have been x-rayed, cleaned, stabilized, re-boxed and analysed. Now they have to go back along with their conservation reports to “Archaeology South East”, the excavation unit who found them.


On the left is a collection very fragile copper alloy objects, including part of a Roman toilet set. On the right is a beautiful brooch that we have cleaned to reveal some of the original decoration (sorry – my photography isn’t that great). What you can’t see is that preserved in the rust on the brooch is a fragment of cord, probably from the clothing being warn by the person who owned it.

But there’s more…

On the back is this amazing bead, again encrusted in rust from the object. you can clearly see the red and green pattern and the hole on the top. This really is a rare and special thing! I’m going to miss it when it’s gone…



The Curator’s Lair

So, this is the nerve centre of the museum – my office! I know it could do with a bit of a tidy and yes, that is a bed on the floor (I have a bad back).

The filing cabinets contain records for all of the artefacts in our collection and the box files contain copies of all of the research projects on the collection produced by students since 2005. You might also be able to make out my collection of animal bones (I am an animal bone specialist by training and for some reason Mrs Symmons won’t let me have my collection of bones in the house).

And in case you were wondering – that IS a tweed jacket on the back of the chair. No self respecting curator would be seen dead without a tweed jacket!



Fridays are my favourite

I’ve always enjoyed Fridays. That’s the day that Amy and Portia come down from the district museum (“The Novium”) to work on their collections. We share our archaeology store with the Novium and work closely with their curators. It’s good to have a day a week when we can share thoughts, ideas and have a good rant. We have already put the world to rights on the topic of archaeological deposition, disposal, loans, handling and have come up with a new idea for an exhibition. Not bad since it’s not 10:30 yet! Many small museums only have a small curatorial team and so when curators get together we like to make the most of the chance to keep up to date with what’s new in collections management.

Today we have a couple of researchers working with us as well as a good compliment of volunteers. Will try to catch up with them as the day progresses.