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11 Museum Blogger Questions for #MuseumWeek

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 1 April 2014

best-blogI am excited to have been asked to join in the ’11 Museum Blogger Questions’ extravaganza that is currently entertaining museum audiences and professionals (and those who are both) across the web. I was nominated by Jake McGowan-Lowe, author of Jake’s Bones, and you can read his answers here.

1. Who are you and what do you blog about?

I have the honour and hard work of being the Curatorial Assistant at the Grant Museum of Zoology. Through the Museum website I write many blogs that can be roughly divided into the fabulous weekly Specimen of the Week and one off blogs that cover a wide range of things from difficult and controversial subjects, through a weird phase of museum pest fascination, for example, to mildly satirical articles with a thin veil of museum research.

2. Why do you blog about museums?

Because they are the be all and end all of what is cool about the world. Anything worth knowing is (probably) featured in a museum somewhere in the world. They are a crucible of information, objects, specialists, excitement and (increasingly) modern technology with panels that explain to me how they work, thus decreasing my need for How To guides on YouTube. Obviously that’s why I like blogging about museums, rather than answering why the Grant Museum has a blog.

3. Share a museum selfie?

Does this count?

Thermal imaging camera in the Extremes exhibition at the Horniman Museum

Thermal imaging camera in the Extremes exhibition at the Horniman Museum. If you haven’t visited yet, I can recommend it highly.

4. Which is your favourite museum?

I presume I can’t say the Grant Museum? Ok so other than the Grant Museum my favourite museum in the whole wide world (visited thus far) would be the Maria Reiche Museum, located in the middle of the desert in Nazca, Peru. The Nazca Lines are hard to describe in a way that will give you a real appreciation for their size, impressive architecture and enigmatic origin. I implore you to have a read on the subject, you won’t be disappointed. To whet your appetite… they were built by an ancient group of peoples called the Nazcas, that lived between 200 BC and 800 AD in Peru. Some of the Nazca lines are actual lines that stretch for miles, and are perfectly straight which, given their age, induces a ‘how did they do that’ giant question mark. One that is yet to be definitively answered, I might add. Others make up giant animals, dug into the desert. Despite their size, or maybe in reality because of their size, they were only discovered in the early 1900s, when airplanes first took to the skies over Peru, and a birds eye view was obtained. Why do I love the Maria Reiche Museum? Because this is where I learnt all of this information and because it houses artefacts from Nazca, including an incredible Nazca mummy, pictured below. I could go on about this museum and all things Nazca for a long time… but I won’t.

I want to be a Nazca woman, they are fascinating. Being a woman already, I am halfway there. Now I just need tattoos.

5. Do you think you’ll still be interested in museums in 20 years time?

My fascination for museums and the general sector of natural science was deeply imbedded before the age of five (apparently, so my parents recall). So on the basis it has already lasted 27 years, I don’t see it dissolving over the next 20. Or the 20 after that…

6. What is your earliest museum memory?

Recalling my earliest memory would require a clearer chronology in my head of museum-related events from childhood than I believe I can reliably say exists in my brain. So this is one of my favourite earliest memories. When I was around the age of 8, I ran a fully functional public museum called ‘The Oving Dinosaur Museum’, from my bedroom. As founder, curator, manager and conservator of the Oving Dinosaur Museum, I sent a letter to Tring Museum with a photograph of an ammonite I had found, asking them what species they thought it was. My favourite memory is of receiving a letter back from them addressed to Miss E L Nicholls, C/O Oving Dinosaur Museum. That’s as good as Arts Council accreditation. Best. Day. Ever.

7. What was the last museum you visited and what did you see?

Technically the last two museum’s I visited were Oxford University Museum of Natural History for a fun show n tell afternoon (curator geekfest) with Darren Mann, Head of Life Sciences, and the Horniman Museum for a day of job shadowing the illustrious Paolo Viscardi, Deputy Keeper of Natural History. But work related museum visits aside, the last museum I visited for fun only, was the RAF Museum in Hendon. They were allowing members of the public to carry out (closely supervised) conservation work on ‘a part’ of a World War II German plane called a Dornier Do 17 that had recently been raised from the Dover Straits. Being a bit of a plane geek (careful in my spelling of plane there), I jumped at the chance. It was absolutely thrilling and my biological expertise ended up being useful to the conservators as they got me to identify the marine creepy crawlies that had made the sunken wreck their home.

Doing conservation work on part of the WWII Dornier plane recently raised from the Dover Straits, at the RAF Museum Hendon.

8. Which post on your blog was the hardest to write?

Both rhinos and sharks are currently suffering from a surge of barbaric human practices, and I am very passionate about their protection and conservation. The hardest type of article to write is one that addresses an issue like this, in a factual way, i.e. without your passion and strong personal opinions influencing the writing. The one that stands out as the hardest to write was about rhino hunting permits. Although in the article I state my personal view on the subject at the end, I was as careful as I could be to ensure I presented both sides of the story, and in doing so giving readers the opportunity to make their own minds up.

9. If you could build a museum, what kind would it be?

I would obviously love to build a museum of natural history filled with skeletons, fossils, taxidermy animals, fluid specimens and pinned insects. Etc. But as there are some superb ones of those in London already (I would build it in the city in which I live of course), then I would open a museum of natural history in which all of the exhibits were made of LEGO. I foresee the displays looking something along these lines…

Copy of Picture1

My museum is sure to be a hit.

10. What is the most popular post on your blog?

The most popular post on the Grant Museum blog that was written by me is about the Surinam toad. Though I have no idea why, I think the specimen is disgusting. It’s the only one out of the 68,000 at the Grant Museum that I don’t like looking at!

11. How would you get more children to visit museums?

See question nine.

Emma-Louise Nicholls is the Curatorial Assistant at the Grant Museum of Zoology

Next nominated blogger, here’s what you have to do:

Answer the 11 questions I have listed for you below (you can adapt them slightly to fit your blog if you wish).

Make sure you include the BEST BLOG image (see the top of this page) in your post, and link the blog back to me, or this blog post.

Think of who to nominate next, I’d recommend two or three though it is up to you, and either give them the same 11 questions or change them however you wish.

I have nominated Erica McAlister at the Natural History Museum and Rob Asher at University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. My questions to you both are:

1) Who are you and what do you blog about?

2) Which post on your blog did you have the most fun writing?

3)  If you could nominate anyone to write a blog on the subject of your choice, who would you ask and what would it be on?

4) Why do you work in a museum?

5) If you could spend a year in a ‘job swap’ with someone at another museum, who would it be?

6) If time and money were not an issue, which museum in the world would you most like to visit?

7) What’s the one thing in your average week at work that you look forward to doing the most?

8) Please share a museum selfie.

9) If you could sell something in your museum shop (that you don’t already), what would it be?

10) What is it about the people you have chosen to nominate next, that made you think they were a good choice?

11) If you turned into a devious miscreant over night, which specimen in your museum would you steal and why?

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