ArtsandHeritageReports2016

In the closing stages of the project, I was given the opportunity by ex-head of the department and former Oxford Slade Professor of the History of Art Anthony Griffiths to go to Blythe House, the storage site shared by the British Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert in West Kensington. I was given a tour of the house and an explanation of some of the issues surrounding storage of these objects and running of a national collection, then spent the rest of the day cataloguing the larger Frank Short prints kept at Blythe House and assisting with Mr Griffiths’ other, smaller projects at Blythe. This was an incredible experience and gave me unparalleled insight into working in museum environments, as well as an opportunity to see the positively labyrinthine British Museum storage facility, filled to the brim with fascinating objects! On my last day at the museum - having finished cataloguing all of the prints I was tasked with earlier in the week, and moving back to scanning for my last few days at the museum - I was invited to participate in the department’s party to celebrate having finished cataloguing all of the British portraits in their collection (of millions). When the Department originally assessed the task ahead of them in the late nineties, they estimated it would take until 2085 to finish cataloging their entire collection - now it seems as if it will take as little as five to ten more years. The British Museum’s collection of prints is the most comprehensive in the world, and the most thoroughly catalogued; print departments elsewhere rely on their records to build their own catalogues and to verify the authenticity of the prints they carry. It is an invaluable resource for researchers in the history of art - and visual culture more broadly - and having participated in building it - albeit over a relatively short amount of time in a limited way - is an honour. Furthermore, over the course of this project I was taught and learned personally a huge range of skills - from cataloguing, to scanning, to handling prints - essential to a career in the curatorial side of arts and heritage, as well as a large amount about prints and the History of Art more broadly. More than that, I experienced work inside a museum environment, which will be invaluable in deciding my future career plans and giving me contacts in the industry - the people I met were friendly, welcoming, and consistently helpful, and I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with them and learn from them.

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