Laura Verstappen at the British Museum

laura-verstappen-200x300In the summer of 2013 I was a full-time intern in the Africa, Oceania and Americas (AOA) department of the British Museum. During the two months that I was there I got an overview of all the different sections and layers of a museum, and, without a doubt, learned more than any theoretical and observational course could have taught me. It turned out that practice often diverges from theory in the endless pursuit of ideal museum management. There was a lot of hands-on work to be done, also for a short-term intern. Thus, I gained experience of sorting, registering, numbering, packing, preserving, conserving, measuring, photography and doing research. I undertook a series of assisting and independent projects ranging from Melanesian clubs to African ethnographic prints, and from Jamaican archaeological finds to an investigation of the correspondence between a curator and a scholar in the 1920s. Even though some of the tasks were menial, I found myself blown away by the insights and possibilities that came with an environment such as this. It taught me object handling and care and, additionally, I had the opportunity to be trained in pest control, archiving and object illustration. At times I worked in a depot, at times in the museum or libraries, but always surrounded by treasures from far away or long ago. In the process I got to meet and learn from people from all different parts of the museum, who have proven to be great sources of information and maybe contacts for the future.

Furthermore, I had a chance to look into some of my specific interests. I graduated from UCU in spring 2013 with a major in Social Sciences – Anthropology – and a minor in Humanities – Art History Museum Studies – and wrote my thesis on Cultural Heritage in Mali. While in the British Museum I got to see and handle some of the objects that I had discussed and studied and revisited my original thesis questions with the materials at hand. The material included objects from the Wellcome collection, photographs from colonial times and reference material from the Anthropology Library and Research Centre. My specialized interest and deeper understanding that resulted from writing my thesis allowed me to get more out of the resources that the British Museum has to offer.

SSC Major, HUM Minor (Art History Museum Studies), class of 2013