I work for Manx National Heritage (MNH) as Assistant Curator of Documentation and Records. After qualifying several years ago with a Master of Arts in Museum Studies I moved back home to the Isle of Man, hoping that a job would come up at the Manx Museum. A couple of years later I was lucky enough to secure a job with Manx National Heritage.
Typically you’ll find me cataloguing objects and archives, preparing digital content for MNH’s iMuseum website and updating our collections management database. My role continues to grow and change and more recently I’ve become involved in organising community exhibitions. It’s a step away from my roots in museum documentation, but an experience which I’ve found very rewarding. At MNH we’re a relatively small yet busy team where all hands do everything and this allows for tremendous variety in my job.
I’ve always been interested in how community exhibitions can bring people’s skills and ideas to our sites. Galleries are social spaces and excellent for presenting a diverse range of local stories, identities and a sense of Manx heritage. Starting a professional qualification in 2012 (the Associateship of the Museums Association) gave me the motivation to put my theory into practice. As a result I launched You Exhibit, an application process where community groups and individuals can apply to stage pop-up exhibitions at an MNH site.
You Exhibit has given me the opportunity to work with artists and community groups including the Creative Network, Isle of Man Photographic Society, Isle of Man College, the RNLI and the Western Photographic Society. Each partner brings a new approach to gallery display and MNH exhibitions are kept fresh, current and relevant by showcasing local talent. At the end of an exhibition partners often take interpretative panels and labels for use in their own studio or clubhouse, ensuring that materials are reused and enjoyed in other spaces.
It was particularly rewarding to host ARTiculate at the Manx Museum, a 2015 exhibition by five Isle of Man College HND Fine Art students: Ruth Gale, Helen Tate, Kirsten Penzes, Bryan Moore and Laurence Gale. The students saw behind the scenes of the making of an exhibition, working alongside professional museum staff to learn about the planning and installing of an exhibition. Some of the students have since graduated and I’ve enjoyed seeing their work at the Sayle Gallery’s recent exhibition ‘4 Years On’.
Another highlight for me was curating the 2016 exhibition ‘Islands and Bridges: the Art of Roger Dean’ at the Manx Museum with partners 3FM, Isle of Man Steam Packet and IOM Post. The unique, fantastical and vibrant artworks captured the imagination of visitors of all ages. Comments in the visitor’s book revealed that people had come to the Island from the UK and even further afield to see the exhibition. One of the paintings, titled ‘Meeting Place’ was inspired by the Isle of Man. It features a tree from a location near Tynwald Hill – a recognisable feature which has now become part of Roger’s otherworldly landscape.
Museums are all about people and their stories. My involvement in community exhibitions have given me the opportunity to meet so many interesting people and learn so many new things. You Exhibit is intended to encourage dialogue between the museum and the wider community, celebrating the strong connections which individuals have with this Island as an inspirational place to live, work and visit.