Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Girl Museum? What goes into making the online museum that you know and love? Well look no further, because our team at Girl Museum have kindly offered to give us an insight into their lives and what they do to make the Girl Museum world go around…
Behind the scenes with the Girls of Girl Museum continues with our Curator, Claire Amundson!
How did you first get involved with Girl Museum?
I joined Girl Museum in August 2016 after discovering one of their internship opportunities on the University of Leicester Job Desk Website. The idea of a museum for girls and girlhood was just brilliant and called to my beliefs that women of the past, present and future need more of a voice. I’d moved from teaching into museum education and was looking for a way to build on some exhibition experience I had gained whilst on my traineeship in the Lake District. The Girl Museum internship was the perfect opportunity! It has enabled me to volunteer whilst working full time, gain the experience I was looking for, and promote the amazing work girls have done, or are doing. As curator, I now get the chance to take the lead on exhibitions and continue to be part of an amazing team of women, which is truly exciting!
What does a normal day look like for you?
Every day tends to be different and is something I would never change if I could! As I work full time, I check emails and do smaller tasks during the week in the evenings. These tasks can range from doing object or image research for exhibitions to keeping updated on girl-related news and proof reading blogs or interpretation text. I then work on larger tasks on the weekend when there is more time to focus on them. This is when you’ll find me delving into all forms of media to conduct research for an exhibition, using that information to write material for exhibits, and sharing ideas or discussing projects with other members of the team. I also use weekends to do some of those important project management tasks like writing exhibition briefs, providing feedback on projects, and looking at what tasks need doing to move projects forward. These tasks vary between projects and I have recently found myself working in my local community to collect memories for an upcoming exhibition. I’ve really enjoyed this and have discovered some wonderful things. I also write blog posts when there is a spare moment and these usually centre around whatever I am working on at the time.
You’ve travelled extensively, is there any place that stood out as your favorite? Is there any place that has inspired you in your career so far?
This is quite a tricky question for me because I have loved all the places I’ve travelled to. All of them have had something different to like, but New Zealand is definitely a favourite, closely followed by Norway. I felt so welcomed wherever I travelled to in New Zealand and loved everything about the country. It is a place of such natural beauty — not to mention Mount Doom! — and I learnt so much about the different cultures there. One of the best experiences was visiting a local Maori meeting ground and discovering more about the long-held customs of the community that meet there. It was an honour to see the elaborately carved wharenui within the marae and be shown around by the chief of the community. When you couple this with experiences like driving along 90-mile beach in the Bay of Islands and swimming with dolphins in Kaikura – how can New Zealand not stand out as a favourite!
Norway was a different experience for me. It is the land of my Norwegian ancestors, and so, is close to my heart – even more so now that I have had the chance to visit. It was an amazing experience to discover more about my heritage and felt like home in many ways. I discovered more about the fascinating history behind the country and got up close to the objects Norwegians have left behind. There is nothing quite like visiting the Vikingskipmuseet and being only a couple of inches away from the famous Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune Viking ships, or being transported back in time to different periods in history at the Norsk Folkemuseet. Another highlight for me was standing on the deck of the Fram ship, which took Roald Amundsen and his men to Antarctica in 1911. Then, there’s the stunning scenery wherever you travel. Norway is definitely a favourite place I’ve travelled to and comes closely behind New Zealand, if not joint first!
Funnily enough, I think the place that has inspired my career so far is the UK. We have so many different heritage sites that fit into a whole variety of different periods of history that I find it hard not to investigate further. Objects and historic buildings are such an important part of history because they tell us so much about our past. They give us a glimpse of what life was like for our ancestors and encourage us to use our senses to take a trip back in time. I thoroughly enjoy conducting research into an idea and then passing the knowledge on to others in a more accessible way. It is the chance to gain that ‘wow’ moment that so many of us aim to achieve.
In addition to your Girl Museum duties, what other ventures are you currently pursuing?
An exciting project I am currently working on is to finish a book I have written and look into getting it published. I’ve been working on this for a few years now after the idea came to me whilst I was teaching. It is an educational resources based around a short story to introduce the different instruments of the orchestra using the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten as a focus. I’ve finished the short story and am working on fact sheets and audio/visual content that will accompany the books to support teachers with music lessons. The idea has since evolved into a series of books following the same structure that cover different aspects of music and historical periods. Alongside this, I am working on putting together an online exhibition based on an idea I had a few years ago. The focus of the exhibition is on how attitudes to disability changed after the First World War. I got some key ideas down into a booklet at the initial stages of the project and would now like to take the venture to the next level.
An ongoing venture I have is running a Rainbows unit with a small team of young girls and women. Volunteering is a big part of my life and I enjoy being part of a local community. I’ve recently realised that I have been part of the guiding community for the past twelve years and in that time I have grown so much as a person, as well as meeting so many different people along the way. When running the unit I have found that it is so important to provide an environment where the girls — and the leaders — feel comfortable enough to be themselves. I work towards a balanced and relevant programme that encompasses a variety of different topics from science evenings through to storytelling evenings with princesses and dragons!
Finally, do you have a favourite blog, exhibition, or podcast? If so, what, and why?
All our shows are special in their own way, and I have loved making my way through each one over the last year or so. The STEM and STEAM Girls exhibitions are one of the first projects I supported as an intern where I researched some of the greatest female minds in STEAM fields and tested out different STEM apps that support learning. Mädchen des Kindertransport is another fascinating exhibition on an entirely different topic that allows for quiet reflection as you read through and watch the interviews. Alternative Girls was an exhibition where I made new discoveries and found out more about girls within the music industry. I also enjoyed writing the Musical Gals column that featured alongside the exhibition where I wrote about a different female composer every fortnight to highlight the incredible achievements these women accomplished during their lifetimes. Yet, I think my favourite exhibition to date would have to be our upcoming Better Together: Girl Groups exhibition. It is the first show where I have taken the lead on some content, including a community collaboration piece that has enabled me to explore the history behind “girl guide” units in my local district. There are some incredible girls/women in our local communities who volunteer their time each week to run units or districts, manage fundraising projects, and provide girls with some incredible opportunities. All have different memories of their time with Girlguiding and you cannot help building a deeper sense of respect for these girls when listening to their stories. I have collected some great memories for our exhibition along the way and cannot wait to share them with the rest of the world!
Did you enjoy this series? Want to see more of what goes on behind the computers of Girl Museum? Tell us in the comments what you’d like to see!
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