Meet the museum: Jackie Keily, Archaeological Collections Curator

By jackie keily on 19 Oct 2013
Jackie Keily, Archaeological Collections Curator with chains from the Cheapside Hoard.

Jackie Keily, Archaeological Collections Curator with chains from the Cheapside Hoard.

Every wondered what it’s like to work in a museum? In this blog series, we introduce you to staff from all three sites of the Museum of London and various different departments. This week Jackie Keily, Archaeological Collections and Archive Curator, takes us through a perfect day in London and gives us a glimpse into the work she does at the Museum of London.

Describe a typical working day at the Museum of London.

The great thing about my job as a curator in the Department of Archaeological Collections is that there is no such thing as a typical day! I can be doing pretty much anything – researching the collections, working on an exhibition, teaching, giving public lectures, dealing with researchers wanting to view items from our collections and answering queries and any of a million other thing! For the last year I have been working on the preparation for the Cheapside Hoard exhibition, assisting the lead curator, Hazel Forsyth. The exhibition opened last week and as you can imagine the last month or so has been hectic. Each day has been spent in the gallery working as part of the team installing the objects. It has been a fantastic experience and a definite high in my career at the Museum of London.

How long have you been working at the museum?

I have worked as a curator at the Museum of London since 2005. When I finished my BA at University College Cork, Ireland (where I come from) I moved to London and began volunteering as an archaeologist. I got a job working as an archaeological finds processor – someone who literally processes all the artefacts that come from archaeological excavations, cleaning them, cataloguing and packaging them. Later I worked as an artefact specialist, mainly with objects dating to the Roman and Medieval periods. I also developed an interest in archaeological leather, lots of which is found in London due to the nice, wet preservation conditions close to the river Thames and elsewhere. In 2005 the Museum was looking for a curator to assist with the planning and installation of their new Medieval London gallery and I was lucky enough to get the job.

Would you describe yourself as a Londoner?

I have now lived in London for over 20 years. I see myself as coming from Cork, and as Irish and these are very much part of my identity, but I also see myself as a Londoner – London is where my ‘home’ is. It’s a funny thing being a Londoner and I don’t think it has to do with being born here. I know when I first came here I felt very alien and I definitely don’t feel that anymore, but I didn’t wake up one morning and think ‘I’m a Londoner’; I think it’s a gradual process.

What would be your perfect weekend in the city?

Wow, hard to choose, when I have the greatest city in the world laid before me to enjoy! I think it would have to start with a walk in Epping Forest. I live in Walthamstow and so Epping is just on my doorstep – it’s one of the green lungs that keeps London and Londoners going. I would then have a leisurely brunch in one of the great cafes in Walthamstow village, such as Eat17, reading the Saturday Guardian, which I love. Then walk over the Lea Marshes to Tottenham to watch my team, Tottenham Hotspur, win at home at White Hart Lane. This is always followed by a Guinness with friends in the Ship on Tottenham High Road, a wonderful, real, old London pub, which serves the best Guinness in London! In the evening I’d have friends round for dinner or go out for a meal.

On Sunday morning I would go for a run – I started running over the summer and it’s a great way to get to know your neighbourhood! At least part of the weekend would also have to include a visit to a museum or art gallery – particularly the National Portrait Gallery (I love portraits – looking at what people are wearing, who they were, etc, etc.) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (to enjoy their fabulous fashion gallery). An early evening stroll along the Thames and over some of its bridges would also be part of my weekend – I love the river and when the lights come on along the Embankment and South Bank, it can be magical. Every time I walk across one of the bridges in the City I pinch myself that I really do live here and am not just visiting!

What’s your favourite place in London?

My favourite place in London is walking along the south bank of the Thames – I love the views, the buildings and of course all the history that you come across. The City is also a favourite, especially at weekends when it is completely different to weekdays and you can stroll around finding amazing buildings and hidden alleys and gardens.

Which exhibit or gallery do you find the most interesting or inspiring?

I love the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. They are slightly magical and just the sort of thing that I can imagine loving as a child and the sort of thing that stays with you as a memory – the twinkly lights and fabulous frocks! I like the fact that even the floor surface is different to the other galleries. But mainly I like it because it showcases part of our fabulous fashion collection and also because it highlights a place and part of London history that was really important but that many people probably don’t really know that much about. Whenever I go through Vauxhall on the underground I always think of the pleasure gardens

Jackie Keily is assistant curator of The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels, which is at the Museum of London until 27 April 2014. 

7 thoughts on “Meet the museum: Jackie Keily, Archaeological Collections Curator

  1. Davey MacLeod says:

    Jackie sounds very jolly and jolly dedicated to. the Museum of London is very fortunate to have such wonderful staff.

  2. Dave Thomson says:

    What a great article. I returned to London to live as a Chelsea Pensioner a year ago today. After many years away. I was brought up in this wonderful city and now I’m back I love it more than ever. I’ve travelled all over The World now I’ve come home to The Army and home to London. I can’t think of a better place to live in my retirement. “May be it’s because I’m a Londoner!” Come on you SPURS! I’ve followed them all my life. Can’t afford to go to “The Lane” now but they are my team.

    Dave Thomson

  3. Samantha says:

    Has anyone else noticed that the emerald Salamander brooch shown in the cheapside exhibition seems to have at least one copy swanning around. I have an identical photograph of the brooch in a book printed in 2002. So are they both genuine? or is one a fake? and if so, does anyone know which one is the fake?


    1. jackie keily says:

      Hi Sammy,

      Can you let me know where you have seen this other salamander? You mention a book from 2002 – can you let me know the title and I will check it out. As far as we know there is only one salamander and it’s here on display in the Cheapside Hoard exhibition!


  4. Chris Davis says:

    Hi, this was a great exhibition and I really enjoyed it, having had some postcards of the hoard from (I think) the late 70s, but never actually seeing the items in real life before.
    The jewels were displayed well, some are much smaller than they look in photos but that just means the craftmanship is even more astounding!
    I like rings but I didn’t see many finger rings at all – did I miss them, or were they something not well represented in the hoard?

  5. Deborah Hutchinson says:

    I visited the Cheapside Hoard exhibition with my grand children and all had a wonderful time.
    I noticed some articles which had two snakes twining up a T shaped bar, there is a comment that their use is not certain, they may be fan holders. I have a book Sisters to the King (Henry the eighth) by Maria Perry in which there is a copy of a painting, the wedding portrait of Mary and Charles Brandon, Mary is carrying something similar in her hand but the reproduction is rather dark. The note underneath states The Earl of Yarborough, indicating he owns the picture. My book was first published in1998 so the picture may have changed hands. The ISBN 978-0-233-00208-8.

  6. Ponce De Leon says:

    Hey Jackie, I am a member of a reenactor group in England, what evidence, if any is there that hobnails existed in England during the 15th century? Are there any pictures you could send me? Facebook would be the best my FB address is Ponce De Leon. Thank you for your time.

    Miles Hensley

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