Chloe Appleby is a university student who has spent the last 4 months interning in the Curatorial department at MAAS. Below she reports on her experience and what parts of her internship she enjoyed the most.
Researching fascinating collections, learning to handle a wide variety of objects, interacting with amazing people, and having your work published were some of the opportunities in my ‘once in a lifetime’ experience working as a curatorial intern for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. I was supervised by Margaret Simpson, a curator specialising in the field of transport.
I’m a Museum and Heritage Studies student at the University of Sydney, with a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree majoring in Ancient History and an aspiring curator. I have always been drawn to the stories that objects accumulate throughout the course of their lives and how museums convey these stories in creative, emotional and captivating ways. My mum knew I was always destined to work in a museum. From a young age I was a mini-conservator/curator, collecting, displaying and caring for all of my toys, which my mum has kept as they were so well preserved!
What I did:
My project required me to research, photograph and document a 1965 BMW R50 model motorcycle and its corresponding collection of paraphernalia. George and Charis Schwarz used the motorcycle in the 1960s to travel from Spain to Australia to get married in Ballarat, Victoria, by Charis’ Baptist minister father. A year later the couple rode around the world again through Canada and the Americas until finally settling down in Sydney, Australia. You can read all about their amazing journey here.
In addition to this immaculate motorcycle, the accompanying collection is wide ranging featuring: motorcycling clothing and equipment, a raccoon’s paw, a Spanish bible, registration plates and a marriage cap from Sibi, Pakistan and an amazing collection of the maps they used around the world. As I had to work closely with the objects, there were numerous visits to the Museum’s storage basement. Rows and drawers filled with objects that held their own unique biographies and cultural meanings were everywhere. This was an amazing experience!
During my time as an intern, not only was I able to work on my designated project, but I was asked to participate in curatorial-related events. The first was taking part in the annual ‘Ask a Curator Day’ on Twitter. Working with Margaret, I was able to engage with the museum community and public, even debate which museum had the best kitten related objects (obviously MAAS). It was a great opportunity to work with Margaret as we were able to effectively combine a vast knowledge of the collection with knowledge of social media usage and jargon.
Additionally, I was asked to represent MAAS by overseeing the care and transport of a replica Draisine bicycle to Central Station for the 2017 NSW Bike Week exhibition launch with conservation manager, Jonathan London. This was an incredible experience as I was able to interact with members of the public, and gain more of a comprehensive understanding of the multiple roles and responsibilities of a curator.
For research and documenting purposes, I became captivated by Charis Schwarz’s self-published book ‘Highlights of the Road: A Narrative’, a detailed account Charis and George’s journeys around the world on DU (their nickname for their motorcycle). The pinnacle moment of the internship was meeting the donors, Charis and George, which felt like seeing old friends. I was able to ask questions about their trip, specifically relating to the objects they donated, to uncover more information. During this meeting, it was clear that their love and devotion to each other has not wavered as they were constantly praising each other’s achievements while reminiscing about their adventure. It was truly inspiring to see the connection the donors had not only with each other but with their beloved motorcycle.
This was a once in a lifetime experience that has taught me essential practical skills that I will use in my professional museum career. It has been the most memorable part of my degree. I cannot wait to continue my MAAS journey!
Written by Chloe Appleby, MAAS Intern November 2017.
To discover more about what our MAAS curators do you can read Tilly Boleyn’s post ‘A day in the life of a science curator’. For more information on the MAAS Tertiary Internships program go here. We also offer work experience placements for Years 10, 11 and 12 students and run a volunteer program.