George King at the British Museum, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas – summer 2014

“During my six week volunteer placement with AOA, I gained broad insight into a variety of tasks, ranging from the photography and measurement of Australian flint blades for the museum database, to organizing, numbering and archiving a series of pictorial collections from around the world donated to the British Museum by explorers and anthropologists. Most of my time, however, was spent on two exhibition projects: the first about tapa or barkcloth, from the Pacific; the second, a major collaborative exhibition on Indigenous Australia.

Surprisingly little is known about many of the British Museum’s Australian objects, and most have never been exhibited in their country of origin. I undertook research on some of these little known objects from Australia and the Torres Strait Islands, including a boomerang, a blanket made of bark and a ceremonial crocodile mask. I also compiled a report on Mabuiag, including documentation of objects from this island in the museum’s collections and their acquisition; some background information on Native Title, and the cultural center Gab Titui, and a list of further reading. This report will be used for staff consultation with community members about the exhibition.

Gaining first-hand understanding of the daily tasks of museum staff, ranging from object research to labelling and archiving pictorial collections, from consulting source communities to updating the museum’s database, was immensely rewarding and instructive. It also inspired me to write my bachelor thesis on museums, and particularly the way they engage diplomatically with other cultural institutions in a similar fashion to the nation states in which they are found. My insights have allowed me to combine some of the things I observed at the British Museum with my interest in politics and international relations.”

(Interdepartmental Major, HUM/SSC, class of 2015)