In March we welcomed Kate to our team as Assistant Archivist. A museum archive is familiar territory for Kate, having joined us from the Royal College of Surgeons and the Hunterian Museum, where for three years she worked as Project Assistant, cataloguing their institutional records. There is much common ground between our two organisations, and consequently she is already familiar with important individuals such as Richard Owen, who became Hunterian Professor (1836) and first Superintendent of British Museum (Natural History) in 1856, which was to later become the NHM.
When walking around the museum there are specimens that she recognises, and a number of NHM staff are already familiar to her as visitors to the Hunterian, researching subjects such as Human Remains.
Now that Kate is part of our team, one of the biggest adjustments she has had to make, is getting used the how much bigger we are, both in the number of staff but also the size of the South Kensington site. This is a common problem of being new here, finding your way around in your first few months! She describes her experience of going to attend her first lunchtime staff yoga class, located in the basement as "being like Alice in Wonderland, because I felt like I was going down, down, down!".
How did Kate originally find herself becoming interested in the world of archives? As part of her English Literature Degree, she worked on a project to rewrite the guidebook for a National Trust property, and found that she thoroughly enjoyed doing the research. Since then she has obtained an Archives Masters Degree at Liverpool University, so there is no turning back now!!
What has the new job involved so far? Her biggest role is to provide access to the Museum's Business Archive, by answering enquiries from both staff and the public, and cataloguing the collection. One example of the latter that she has worked on, is the draft Bird Report by Edward A Wilson, from the Terra Nova Expedition of Antarctica. Sadly Wilson was to later perish there with Captain Scott in 1912. For Kate it was very poignant looking at this collection, which includes some drawings, not just due to the inevitable sad conclusion, but because you are reading some of the very first descriptions and observations of this part of the world.
Kate has a particular interest in expeditions, and is very much looking forward to learning more through her work about the museum's role since 1881, in expeditions all over the world.
The other major part of her job is to answer enquiries about the archive. Some of the subjects she has handled so far have involved architectural plans for our building, and the provenance of specific specimens from the scientific collections. She has liaised not only with our own staff, but other museum staff and researchers from all over world.
She is looking forward to seeing the Mammoths Exhibition, and in July her first visit to our Natural History Museum, Tring.