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Museums & Collections Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Business as usual: UCL Art Collections

By Subhadra Das, on 18 January 2011

The Strang Print Room

A working day at UCL Art Collections

Term 2, Day 1

As museum assistant at UCL Art Collections, my job is to help with collections management and other activities in order to ensure the collection operates at maximum efficiency – a big ask given the 2 and a half members of staff (I’m the half! I work 2 days a week), over 10,000 objects and the wide and varied range of activities.

Having come back to work from the holiday closure, I have organized a research visit – a PhD. student from the University of Maryland wants to make an in-depth study of our extensive collection of the works of Winifred Knights – and chased up catalogue orders; a process made sluggish by the traditional practice where everyone tries to accomplish as little as possible before Christmas.

Today sees the start of Spring Term and a highly typical day in the Strang Print Room. Following a lecture in the ‘Works on Paper’ course – a course based at the History of Art Department and run through collaboration with Andrea, our curator – I return the artworks to their normal storage. This is easily one of my favourite parts of the job: there is always a chance of coming face to face with a Dürer or nose-to-nose with a Canaletto. There are more objects to return throughout the day as the Flaxman exhibition which ran last term is being taken down.

There are also some new works to photograph including a portrait of and two watercolours by Charles Bell – one of the founding professor of the UCL Medical faculty in 1828. Once the works are packed up, one of the Strang volunteers and I courier them across the road to UCL Media Services. This is not nearly as glamorous as some of the couriering trips other UCL Museums & Collections staff have been on – Dresden, Berlin, Barcelona… – but it does have the advantage of considerably less travel anxiety. By photographing new pieces as they come into the collection, and by running a series of digitization projects with Media Services, we hope to build up a digital gallery of the whole collection which researchers and course coordinators can use.

As with every day, some things have to be bumped over to tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list. One of mine is to write a press release for the next exhibition at the Strang: a loan of prints and drawings from the German Expressionist movement. It opens on February 8th, and you can find out more about it by visiting our exhibitions webpage.

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