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Blog from the Basement: Meet the collections services team

The museum is temporarily closed, but the Collections Services team are still hard at work. In this post, you'll meet the team and find out what they do.

The museum is temporarily closed until summer 2024 while we undergo a ‘once in a generation’ transformation, and most of our colleagues are working from home or in temporary office accommodation. But the Collections Services team is still mostly working in the museum, getting objects ready to go on display in our two new Sound and Vision galleries.

Collections Services team members work in roles that enable the care, management and use of the museum’s collection: conservation, collections care, storage, collections data, photography and digitisation, registration (managing loans), and supporting collections development (acquisitions and transfers). But let us put faces to job titles and what they mean, using our own words.

Vanessa Torres, Conservator

Vanessa using a brush to conserve a photograph
Vanessa Torres, Conservator, specialist in paper and photographs

I am Vanessa, a Conservator. I am responsible for the physical care of our collection. I do this by monitoring the environment of display and storage facilities, by defining standards and by delivering training. Since joining the museum in 2013, I’ve developed expertise in the preservation and conservation of photographs. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge with colleagues internally, with external professional networks and curious people.

I am privileged to have access to such a fantastic collection daily! At the moment, I am working on the paper-based objects and photographs that will be displayed in the Sound and Vision galleries. I routinely use Japanese soft brushes and sponges to clean, and magnification glasses and a handheld torch to inspect objects closely—these are my favourite tools.

Ruth clapham, Assistant Registrar

Ruth is a white woman with brown hair and a big smile
Ruth Clapham, Assistant Registrar

I’m Ruth, an Assistant Registrar and I’ve been here nearly seven years. I work on loans in and out of the collection and new acquisitions to the museum. Currently, while the museum is closed, I am working on loans out both to museums in the UK and further afield, meaning our collections are still seen by people all over the country and the world

My favourite tool is my phone! I’m always taking pictures of objects, trucks, crates and it also has my calendar which is very helpful for remembering all the dates that I need to!

Eleanor Durrant, Conservator

Eleanor is a white woman with long blonde hair. She smiles to the camera.
Eleanor Durrant, Conservator (Sound and Vision)

I’m Eleanor, a Conservator for the Sound and Vision Project, and it’s my job to assess and prepare the majority of the 3D objects that will be going on display in the new galleries. This means they might need a clean or some interventive work to make them stable for display.

I often use lots of different types of spatulas when doing treatments, so they’re my favourite tool. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and I am very protective of particular ones in our lab!

Alex Greenhough, Documentation Officer

Alex, a white woman wearing spectacles, adds a barcode to a collection object
Alex Greenhough, Documentation Officer

I’m Alex and I’m a Documentation Officer. My main responsibilities are about keeping track of our collections—what objects we have, what they are and where they are located. I carry out cataloguing and data improvement work and help to make sure our records look great on Collections Online.

One of my favourite pieces of equipment is this handy Bluetooth barcode scanner. We use barcodes to help us track the locations of our objects in our stores, and we use these scanners to input barcodes into our Collections Management System (a database we use to record information about our collections). We also use these scanners to help with other data entry tasks—I even have a barcode for my name!

Gabrielle Flexer, Conservation and Collections Care Manager

Gabby, a white woman wearing a hi-vis jacket, drives a forklift at the collections centre
Gabrielle Flexer, Conservation and Collections Care Manager

I’m Gabby, and I’m the Conservation and Collections Care Manager here at the National Science and Media Museum. It’s a varied and interesting role working on a variety of tasks. Using my favourite tool—spreadsheets—I look after the planning of the conservation team, ensuring that the collections are prepared and ready for exhibition, loan or public access.

I lead on the identification and management of hazardous materials found within the collection to ensure the safety of the collections, colleagues and visitors and finally work with the numerous teams in collections services and across the museum to advocate for the long term preservation of the world-class collections we hold in the stores. Occasionally I also get to be hands on with the collection and work on install, decants and store moves—always my favourite days!

Hannah Brignell, Senior Collections Services Project Manager

Hannah, a white woman with shoulder length blonde hair, smiles at the camera
Hannah Brignell, Senior Collections Services Project Manager
I am Hannah, the Senior Collections Services Project Manager. I’m based at the National Science and Media Museum but I work across all of the northern sites as well as at the National Collections Centre in Wroughton. I support and manage collections projects, such as the Collection Review, exhibitions and digitisation projects, as well as Masterplan activity like the new Sound and Vision galleries here in Bradford and supporting Vision 2025 at the National Railway Museum.
My tool of choice is my laptop, which is crucial to my role, from enabling me to bring teams together through Microsoft Teams to using Excel to develop costings, programmes and track progress of projects. My role is very varied and always fascinating. I am very lucky to get to work with so many of our amazing collections.

Lucy Findley, Casual Registrar

Lucy is a white woman with shoulder-length hair, wearing a navy top
Lucy Findley, Casual Registrar

My role with Science Museum Group is Casual Registrar, which means I get to work across all the museums in the group on various projects. I am currently the Registrar for the Sound and Vision project, so in this context I am the point of contact for all the loans, acquisitions and donations to the collection, looking after all the legal, logistical and ethical minutiae of their management and movement. Exciting, I know. But this job has taken me all over the world for various courier trips and roles.

My favourite tool is my clipboard. A lot of this job means ensuring there is a paper trail for everything—object movements, decisions and so on. Having my clipboard out means objects are on the move, and all the planning is coming to fruition.

Emily Coulthard, Collections Hazards Officer

Emily, a white woman with long hair and glasses, handles a model train carriage in the stores
Emily Coulthard, Collections Hazards Officer

Hello! My name is Emily Coulthard, and I am the Collections Hazards Officer for the Northern sites. If you’re confused about my job title, don’t worry you’re not the first!

To confirm: Yes, historic objects do contain a myriad of hazardous materials. And yes, the conservation teams (with my aid) are constantly managing them to keep the collection, staff and the public safe.

My Southern counterpart and I review procedures, answer queries and aid the conservation teams to assess and manage hazardous objects. Most importantly, we train all staff on where hazards are and what to do if they find them…

Lucy Williams, Photographer

Lucy is a white woman with curly brown hair wearing all black. She looks pensively at the camera.
Lucy Williams, Photographer

I am a photographer with over a decade of experience. I remain passionate about the possibilities photography offers for artistic expression, and continual personal development. As a visual artist, I am constantly learning and evolving.

Throughout my professional career I developed skills which are essential at the museum, including documenting live events, product launches and public gatherings.

My museum work brings me into contact with a range of fascinating 2D and 3D objects. But I also enjoy documenting exhibitions, and creating studio portraits—a skill I honed in my first professional job in a portrait studio.

The museum might be temporarily closed, but we’re still here and we are a lively bunch, busier than ever!

Read more blogs from basement and find out what our collections services team get up to behind the scenes.

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