For Mass Observation Day on 12 May 2017, museum staff kept a diary of what they got up to on a “typical day” in the museum. 12 May just happened to be the museum’s 182nd birthday! The diary will be submitted to the Mass Observation Archive and added to the museum’s archive. Here’s what we got up to…
Natural Sciences Schools Loan
09:00 Staff arrive for work. Security & Premises Officer Stefan unlocks the building and makes sure we’re ready for opening at 10am.
09:00 Natural Sciences Officer Sarah responds to an enquiry from a local school about the loans boxes we have available. The museum loans out boxes of original and replica objects to schools for use in the classroom.
09:30 Collections Officer Leah researches and writes up information about June’s Object of the Month, a print of an engraving of Easton Lodge near Dunmow. The print will be displayed in the museum throughout June and shared on the museum’s website and social media.
10:00 Security & Premises Officer Stefan checks the temperature and humidity levels in the galleries. Levels in both the galleries and the stores are monitored on a weekly basis so that staff can respond quickly to any problems.
Repacking project in the world cultures store
10:00 Volunteer Jill arrives for her shift on the welcome desk. The museum’s welcome desk is managed entirely by volunteers, who welcome visitors, sell tickets and souvenirs, and provide information to visitors
10:30 Collections Officer Leah checks the work of two of her collections volunteers, who spent the previous day auditing and repacking the museum’s world cultures collection. She updates the locations of the objects packed on the museum’s collections management system, Modes.
10:45 A member of the public brings in a piece of pottery to be identified by Curator Carolyn. The museum offers a free identification service.
11:00 IT Officer Ian updates staff computers following an upgrade to the council’s system. The museum is run by Uttlesford District Council, which provides invaluable support for IT, Human Resources, Communications and many other areas.
11:00 Collections Officer Leah takes in a donation of six Woman’s Christian Temperance Union plates. The plates were found in the Friends’ Meeting House in Saffron Walden, where the WCTU set up a Reading Room for soldiers during World War I. They will be accessioned into the museum’s social history collection.
12:00 Collections Officer Leah provides information about George Nathan Maynard and his son Guy Maynard, the first two curators of the museum, to two visitors. Our curatorial staff carry out research into the museum’s collections and history, and are always happy to respond to enquiries from the public.
12:30 Volunteer Ann arrives for her shift on the welcome desk.
12:30 Curator Carolyn works on updates to the museum’s Service Plan for the following year. The Service Plan outlines the main goals and objectives for the museum and enables staff to plan their work and set targets.
13:30 Volunteer Jill arrives back in the museum after lunch to begin her second volunteering shift of the day. As well as volunteering on the welcome desk, Jill volunteers behind-the-scenes helping us to catalogue the museum’s local history document archive.
14:00 Collections Officer Leah creates a ‘Frightful Facts’ tour around the museum for our upcoming Museums at Night event on 19 May. We open up the museum at night, turn off all the lights and challenge visitors to complete our trail by torchlight!
14:00 Natural Sciences Officer Sarah and Museum Assistant Fiona create resources for our upcoming half-term family activities. The museum will be running Nature Explorer activities and trails on 31 May and 1 June.
Example of Hawaiian barkcloth
14:30 Volunteer Christine arrives for her shift on the welcome desk.
14:45 Curator Carolyn and Collections Officer Leah inspect a piece of Hawaiian barkcloth in the museum’s world cultures collection. A German museum has requested to loan the barkcloth for an exhibition and staff need to ensure it is in a stable enough condition to be transported and displayed.
15:00 Natural Sciences Officer Sarah and Museum Assistant Fiona look after the live Malaysian sticks insects that live in the museum’s Discovery Centre. The stick insects need spraying with fresh water every day. They eat bramble, which is changed once a week.
Sheet music offered to the collection
15:15 Collections Officer Leah takes in a donation of a book of sheet music, including a song called ‘Walden Market’, written in the old Essex dialect. She will check the existing collection to see if the museum already has a copy and, if not, the sheet music will be accessioned into the social history collection.
15:30 Staff and volunteers enjoy tea and chocolate cake to celebrate the museum’s birthday!
16:00 Curator Carolyn contacts a textile specialist about a recent acquisition to the archaeology collection: a medieval bronze brooch with a piece of well-preserved textile attached. The museum needs specialist advice to help date and conserve the textile.
16:30 Curator Carolyn prepares a loan box of Anglo-Saxon replicas and objects requested for educational use next week at a village school.
16:50 Volunteer Christine cashes up the till and makes sure everything is ready for the start of the Saturday shift. Our final visitors leave the museum and staff start the process of shutting down and locking up.
If you want to find out more about the work of the museum, follow the links in the diary entries or contact us