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.