Lydia Sheils at the British Museum, Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas – summer 2016

Lydia_Sheils_1My placement at the British Museum consisted of a variety of assignments predominantly within the Americas and Oceania departments. One such task, for the Americas department, involved locating slips for missing objects and uploading them to the internal catalogue. We were also asked to write and rewrite descriptions for new and existing photographs for the catalogue. However, the main focus was on the Northwest Coast exhibition which will open in February 2017. We were asked to choose a number of objects from the collection, to do some preparatory research and write object biographies to assist the curator in the process of selecting items for display. We were invited to think about how the objects would fit into the exhibition and how both old and new pieces would interact with one another in the exhibition space. As part of this task we visited the storage site at Orsman Road and had the opportunity to look at some of the objects we had researched as well as meeting a Canadian researcher who was examining two Northwest Coast blankets and studying contacts between Northwest Coast peoples and traders.

It was fascinating to be able to observe the process of putting together an exhibition in a very short period of time. Exhibitions usually take two to three years’ preparation whereas on this occasion the team only had about eight months.