Jesse Voetman - British Museum / Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas


In the summer of 2012 I did a six-week internship at the British Museum in London. My work for the department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas mainly consisted of documenting objects, which varied from photographs of contemporary African sculptures, to textiles from the Pacific and Australian boomerangs. I would then add this information to the museum database, and photograph the objects when necessary. A day’s work would result in a completely updated record on the database, which is accessible for both the museum staff and the public; a very rewarding task! Since I worked on the African collection as well as the Oceanic collection I was able to compare between the two departments, and learn about different ways of approaching a collection. Even though the internship was very much focused on the practical side of working in a museum, I learned a great deal about museums, specifically the British Museum, as institutions and about how a museum deals with its collections, its staff and of course its public. The research thesis that I wrote in the Spring semester of 2013 took as its point of departure modern and contemporary art from the Pacific. Examining the work of George Nuku and Ralph Regenvanu, who both worked with the British Museum as artists in residence, I concluded that the use of contemporary materials such as acrylic paint, Perspex and polystyrene distinguishes artists from the Pacific as contemporary artists, without disregarding the embedding of their art within a greater societal structure and cultural traditions. In this thesis I combined my experiences at the British Museum and my interest in modern and contemporary art.

(HUM major, Anthropology minor, class of 2013. MSC Modern and Contemporary Art History, Curating, Criticism, University of Edinburgh)