Inside the Collection

Ask a Curator Day 2018

Graphic of MAAS Ask a Curator Day schedule: 9-10 Chloe & Ellen (front of house); 10-11 Nina & Katie (science, contemporary culture); 11-12 Jessica, Lucy, Scott (registration); 12-1 Vanessa & Rebecca (decorative arts, conservation); 1-2 Glynis & Alysha (fashion); 2-3 Margaret & Min (transport, Asian artefacts); 3-4 Matthew & Campbell (science, design); 4-5 Andrew & Nu (astronomy)
Our amazing staff are ready to answer all your questions on Ask a Curator Day! Here’s the line up…

The Museum staff have a huge job caring for our enormous collection of over 500,000 objects. Our team includes experts in a vast range of areas, including: fashion, health and medicine, architecture, engineering, sciences, design, decorative arts, technologies and contemporary culture.

Ask a Curator Day is a worldwide initiative that lets people connect directly to museum professionals to ask them questions. We’re excited to be one of nearly 1000 museums taking part this year across 58 countries.

It’s not just curators!

At MAAS #askacurator day is not just about the curators, it includes all museum professionals, whether they work behind the scenes or front-of-house. This year we’re teaming up with some of our amazing registration and conservation staff, and visitor services officers (VSOs). They all have their own incredible depth of knowledge and expertise about our collection and together help care for our collection and make it accessible to our visitors.

How to ask a question?

This year #askacurator day is on Wednesday 12 September. Our team will be available from 9am to 5pm (AEST) to answer your questions. Head over to Twitter and join in using the hashtag #askacurator. You can tweet questions to us @maasmuseum or post questions on this blog.

The day will be jam packed with interesting people, ready to answer your questions. Check out our timeline if you have a specific interest in the Museum’s collection or just fire questions away any time that suits. Profiles of some of our #askacurator stars can be perused on past blog posts here and here.

Sneak peek: meet Scott Winston

As a taster for what to expect on the day, we spoke to Scott Winston, one of the registrars responsible for looking after our collection’s largest objects, to find out a little about his work. You can ask him more questions on Twitter tomorrow!

A man gives a tour to a group of about a dozen people, assembled around a 3m high Mecanno Ferris Wheel.
Registrar Scott Winston giving deep stores tours at the Museums Discovery Centre in Castle Hill. Photo: Marinco Kojdanovski, MAAS

How long have you worked at MAAS?

I’ve been working at MAAS for almost 10 years now. I started fresh out of Uni as a volunteer working every Monday on front of house for half a day and in the Registration department during the afternoon. I got my first paid gig as a Customer Service Officer before being drafted across as an Administration Assistant and Collections Officer in Rego. Since then I have scaled the food chain and am currently working as an Assistant Registrar mainly on special projects and at the Museums Discovery Centre.

What exactly is a registrar? What do you do in a day?

If I had to pinpoint exactly what a registrar does I would say that we are the custodians of the collection. We document and catalogue all of the objects, new and old, in our collection as well as keep track of their precise locations and status using our database system. Registrars are also responsible for managing the documentation and logistics for all of the incoming and outgoing loans which come and go from the museum as well as the installation and dismantle of exhibitions. Registrars work in tandem with the members of the Conservation department to ensure the collection is meticulously cared for, while ensuring it is also accessible to the public.

The best thing about my day is that every single one is entirely different. Although my role as a registrar is structured, the activities I undertake can range from cataloguing small delicate ceramics in the morning to transporting and installing aeroplanes and double decker buses in the afternoon. Not every day is as glamourous as that, some days are spent tirelessly cataloguing, documenting, stocktaking and performing some very repetitive tasks, but the versatility is what keeps it interesting.

Do you have a favourite collection object?

This is a really hard question to answer!! If I had to choose one, it would have to be a giant Mecanno Ferris wheel. This was the first object I was involved in the collection of and is from a small town in Northern NSW called Murrurundi.

It is a scale model of a Ferris Wheel in Vienna and is made entirely of Meccano. It was constructed by a gentleman named Fred Lane and it took him a number of years to complete. This object is particularly special to me as I got to enjoy hearing all the marvellous stories from Fred during our 2 day stay in Murrurundi and I have been able to pass on these amazing stories to a variety of different visitors who come on our deep stores tours out at the Museums Discovery Centre.

Two men, one young, one old, sit talking in the back of a truck in country NSW.
Scott talks to Fred Lane during the collection of Fred’s giant Mecanno Ferris Wheel. Photo: Carey Ward, MAAS
Scale model of a Ferris Wheel against a black background. The main structure of the Ferris Wheel is silver in colour, and there are 30 red carriages spread evenly around the wheel.
Scale model of a Ferris Wheel made by Fred Lane of Murrarundi, NSW. Fred donated his Ferris Wheel to the Museum in 2012. MAAS collection: 2012/120/1. Photo: Margaret Simpson, MAAS

What’s been the funnest project you’ve worked on in your time here?

There are a few projects to choose from here… but if I had to narrow it down I would say that working on one of my favourite exhibitions, Harry Potter was pretty fun. Going into complete geek mode and getting to handle all the awesome movie props like Voldemort’s Wand and Harry’s Golden Snitch ticked a lot of boxes for me.

I have also been lucky enough to do some travel over the years, most notably travelling for the installations of the exhibition ‘Faith Fashion Fusion’ to Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Albany and Katanning in Western Australia and even overseas to Jakarta was awesome.

And the most challenging?

This is an easy one…The most challenging project I was involved in was the dismantle and relocation of two of the museums large aircraft, the Autogyro and the Transavia Airtruk. This project involved the lowering, cleaning, dismantling and then transporting of both aircraft from display in Ultimo to our storage facility at Castle Hill.

I had never taken the lead on a project of this scale before and it involved communicating and liaising with a number of internal and external contractors and departments. The aircraft, which are classed as oversized vehicles due to their width and height, even had to be transported on large flat bed trucks in the dead of night, between midnight and 4am. The project went off without a hitch and both can be seen during behind the scenes tours of the MDC.

Two large aircraft on the floor of one of the Museum's large galleries. One is a propeller plane, the other is an 'Autogyro' which has three helicopter-like blades. The two aircraft fill the floorspace of the gallery.
The dismantle and relocation of two of the museums large aircraft. MAAS collection: B2361 and 88/288. Photo: Ryan Hernandez, MAAS

What’s been your favourite Museum you’ve ever visited (in Australia or Worldwide)?

This is a big split down the middle here! It is impossible to look past the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, both in London. I love the grand architecturally beautiful buildings absolutely chock full of interesting and amazing artefacts and objects. The ancient history nerd in me spent hours roaming the halls reading every label in every showcase… while my poor wife waited patiently in the café.

I would also have to put the Acropolis Museum in Athens in my top three. Seeing the stunning Parthenon Frieze first hand was unforgettable.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I spend my days mainly working out at our Castle Hill storage facility. The bulk of my work is spent rehousing and relocating the medium, large and very large sized object collections, ensuring that we are both maximising our storage capacity while maintaining the highest standards of conservation. This also gives me an opportunity to work with some of the museum’s oldest collections, regularly improving on the documentation and digitisation of these collection areas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *