Meet me at the Museum: Abby Taylor
I have spent most of my life in museums, one way or another. As a visitor, a volunteer and now as a member of staff. I remember going to The Potteries Museum with my parents and my grandparents as a child. In fact, it is my earliest museum memory. I loved spending time looking round the galleries, especially Local History and Archaeology. As I got older, this became me dragging them round galleries and museums. I was usually found several galleries behind everyone else, taking photos of everything in every case as well as all of the labels (pro tip: always take a photo of the labels).
For as long as I’ve known what archaeology means, I’ve wanted to work in archaeology or in museums. Well, apart from a brief, traitorous dalliance with palaeontology when I was about ten and obsessed with dinosaurs. (some things never change). I now have two jobs at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Visitor Services Assistant and Assistant Curator (Local History).
Between being a dinosaur obsessed ten year old and a dinosaur obsessed nearly thirty year old I went to college (to do Archaeology and Geology) and university (to do Archaeology and Geology). Whilst at uni, I went to Horgabost on the Isle of Harris for two weeks to excavate an Iron Age wheelhouse. This was allowed because, despite its miles of quiet, unspoilt beaches, it does still have a pub. Archaeologists don’t dig if there’s not a pub.
After university I decided I’d like to do some more university so I stayed on at The University of Birmingham to do a PhD. My thesis is on the use of finds made by members of the public (like metal detectorists) in archaeological research. It’s a subject that’s important to me because some archaeologists can still be slightly derogatory towards metal detectorists and I think it’s important to foster good relations to make the most of
the objects that they find. Not many people would understate the importance of something like the Staffordshire Hoard (which I queued to see at both Birmingham and The Potteries Museums).
In 2016 I joined the museum as a Visitor Services Assistant and then in October last year I got a position as Assistant Curator of Local History funded by the John Ellerman Foundation. I love both of my jobs. No two days are the same. As a Visitor Services Assistant I help to engage the public with the collections and make sure they get the most out of their visit. As Assistant Curator I’ve been working with the Local History collections,
documenting them, processing archives that are sent in from archaeological contractors and getting as much of the collection as possible online. I’ve spent a lot of time in the stores, going through the archives and tidying up the records we have. It’s all stuff that would have made ten year old me very excited (actually, it makes twenty nine year old me
It’s great when we see families come in to the museum because it takes me back to my own childhood. It’s a brilliant place to learn and gain a love for history and museums. After all, I spent a lot of time in them growing up and I turned out okay!