Alexandra Barancova at the British Museum, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas – summer 2015

Alexandra_Barancova"During the summer of 2015, I completed a placement at the AOA Department of the British Museum as part of CHIP. This experience allowed me to better understand contemporary heritage management from a practical perspective that built upon the academic skills I had gained in classes previously. For example, I gained a more profound understanding of the way research is conducted in the museum. One of the tasks that we were given was to research several objects from Australia such as boomerangs, head rests or clubs. These objects had previously been registered as duplicates, which meant that they had for example been used for handling, but recently the current curators decided that they should be reaccessioned into the museum’s collection. The reason behind this was that the sole grounds for their initial exclusion from the collection was the quantity of similar objects that the museum had acquired at once, rather than any deficiency in their qualities. To my surprise, finding potentially relevant information about these objects involved a high degree of speculation. In the more successful cases, it was predominantly based on vague inscriptions of names, places or voyages on or attached to the objects. With these as leads, we could turn to the museum’s vast resources ranging from eighteenth-century books, through archives to online databases to construct possible histories of the objects. As several members of staff told us independently, it is this sort of ‘detective work’ that constantly builds on and expands the museum’s knowledge of its collection.

My experience at the British Museum was also very useful for my thesis. In my thesis I explored the work of a contemporary heritage organization, the European Platform for Memory and Conscience, which conducts research and attempts to raise awareness about the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Although my thesis subject was not directly linked to the British Museum as such, my summer spent working there gave me invaluable insight into the work of a heritage institution. I gained research skills that I could directly apply while carrying out my own research and I sharpened my understanding of where my personal subject interests lie."

Class of 2016. Interdepartmental Major HUM/SSC