Working at the Museum today, and I was based at an old but fortunately functional pc in the storeroom. It's a solitary place to work, but exactly what I needed. There's also a scary cut-out of a sailor in Victorian uniform (sorry uniform curator dudes, I'm sure it's not Victorian at all) as you work in the door, which never fails to make me jump. The research for the Chasing Freedom exhibition has been one of my most challenging pieces of work to date. Chasing Freedom is a brilliant choice of a title, too, as the exhibition is devoted to telling the story of the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron which 'policed the high seas' (as Christopher Lloyd write) in order to suppress the Transatlantic Slave Trade following the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.
Preparing for an exhibition is vaguely comparable to the process of writing a thesis or a dissertation. There is so much material that should you attempt to think about the woods, the sheer number of trees will make you completely insane. It's much better to concentrate on the material right in front of me at any one point than to attempt to tackle the whole, especially if, like me, you are coming in completely from the outside. There is a certain atmosphere, too, to working at the Naval Museum, all the staff I have met so far inhabit their work in a way that is particular to the passions of their field. The Museum world, I suppose, reminds me a little of University. Knowledge and learning for knowledge's sake, which is quite how it should be.
There are broader questions too, in any form of research, but perhaps it is more more prominent in the research that takes place for an exhibition; the central question of how information is presented, not only in terms of the central argument - demonstrated and interpreted through the material that is selected for inclusion - but in terms of the language that is used, the tense, the amount of words in a sentence. There are some fascinating general guidelines for museum exhibition copy, for instance, that I am encountering for the first time. I would be interested to know if they vary from museum to museum, as well as depending on the audience that you are aiming and catering to.
Life feels very much work oriented at the moment, this has led to some of the anxieties and little stresses that I have been talking about this week. But this week has also brought many reminders of the reasons why I chose to pursue research/writing as 'career' and experiences of the many rewards that I find within the work I do.
There is, so I am told, more to life than work however, and although this weekend will not be entirely work-free, I intend to spend some time meditating, which has been on the cards (do you see what I did there?) all week.
Tune in tomorrow and see if you can spot the zen.