We were sad to say goodbye to our Curator, Sean, last week as he retired from the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum to spend more time on his art and in his garden! We did manage to persuade him to write a quick blog post before he left, looking back on his time as curator here… we would like to wish him all the best in his retirement, and thank him for all his hard work at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum over the years.
From September 2014 until January 2018, I was curator at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, part of the National Trust for Scotland.
Some people ask “what does a curator do?” Every post is different. I was curator of contemporary and modern art for Glasgow Museums from 1999 until 2014. It was a similar job but had many differences too. In many ways it was a faster pace at GoMA with much larger gallery spaces and constantly changing displays of collections and loans.
Here at RBBM one of the main things I do is type as I am now. That was true of GoMA too and I suppose most jobs now. Other things I do besides typing include giving tours of the museum, surrounding sites and the stores. This is one of my favourite things to do and most visitors interested in Burns enjoy it. I enjoy conveying my love of Burns and knowledge of the collection. I am new to Burns and only started studying him when I started this job, I was hired for my ‘museum experience’. But I was pleasantly surprised to find I really like Burns as a subject. I enjoy his mind through his letters, poems and songs. He was both talented and humane. It is quite thrilling to hold original letters and manuscripts that he wrote or objects he owned. I will miss this aspect of the job, but of course, anyone anywhere can read Burns. That is one of the perks of writing, it is easily dispersed.
I also had the responsibility here of planning and running three or four temporary exhibitions a year in the gallery space. This could be quite a challenge with little funds. I think my favourites were the Sharmanka show and Burns Squared.
I also answer lots of enquiries from around the world. This is the largest collection of Burns objects in the world – over 300 rare books and 312 original manuscripts by Burns himself. I am only now beginning to comprehend and understand the collection. Collections are only as good as the caretakers who speak for them and love them and this knowledge takes time. Without this knowledge and passion collections become mute objects.
Probably one of my favourite objects in the collection is Robert’s writing set. http://www.burnsmuseum.org.uk/collections/object_detail/3.t13
These pens are much mightier than the sword!
This entry was posted in Exhibition, Robert Burns and tagged Alloway, Ayrshire, Collection, Curating, curator, Exhibitions, heritage, Kilmarnock Edition, Letters, museum, National Bard, National Trust for Scotland, Objects, poetry, research, Robert Burns, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Writing.