Reorganising our curated osteology collectionAugust 2, 2011 Archaeology, Blogs, Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Conservation, Learning, Volunteers
During the course of building developments within the museum, some of the conservation boxes with skeletal material in the rotunda store had to be moved from their shelf locations and temporarily stored elsewhere.
Once the building work was complete the boxes could be returned to the store but in turn needed to be located back on to different shelves and the inventory updated. With the return of the boxes and the gaining of some new space within the store there was an opportunity for a rationalising of the space and re grouping of the boxes from the sites currently curated by the museum. As there are over 17,000 individuals curated that equates to a very substantial number of boxes and a major task.
The moving of the boxes and rationalising of the space within the store needed to take place in July in order to be ready to accept more material from other sites.
The endeavour of moving several hundred boxes to new locations in the store was a task that our curators would need assistance with to be able to complete and achieve the target. Most opportunely help was at hand in the guise of three willing work experience volunteers: Liam, Amelia and Kate.
Jelena Bekvalac, Curator Human Osteology explains more…
We had the pleasure here at the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology during two weeks in July to have three lovely work experience students with us, Liam Bateson, Amelia Stephenson and Kate Marrion. They were all extremely helpful, interested and really ably assisted in our grand task of rationalising the boxed skeletal material in the rotunda, re-labelling boxes and up dating the inventory.
Amelia and Kate although here with us for a shorter time aided in moving material from the lab back to the rotunda, assisted in replacing boxes on to the correct shelves, labelling boxes and listing new locations of the boxes which, are integral to the up keep of the inventory so we know where all the boxes are correctly located.
Liam and Kate were also able to participate in a session about object handling and so saw another aspect and objects in the museum. With the assistance of our plastic cast skeleton Dr W we were able to go through the names of the bones in the skeleton and how they articulate with one another. They all proved to be keen learners and had very good osteological aptitude, young osteologists in the making!
Liam was at the forefront of box moving and relocation being involved for a longer time period. Additionally to moving all of the boxes a record of their new locations had to be listed for the inventory to be updated and new location labels on the boxes. Once again Liam, Amelia and Kate rose to the challenge and diligently labelled the boxes and listed the new locations. The task took considerable effort, was physically demanding when moving the boxes around and often very dusty. The boxes have now all been relocated, space created and new inventory locations noted, a great accomplishment. This outstanding achievement in the store could not have been reached without the help and hard work of Liam, Amelia and Kate, they were superb.
We try to to accommodate work experience requests when certain suitable tasks such as this reorganisation arise, my best advice if you are interested in helping us is to keep checking the museums website here.
Liam also found the time to write up his thoughts on his work experience for our blog which he shares with you now:
When looking for work experience I did not go out searching for a job in the Museum of London’s Centre for Human bioarchaeology. My specification was simple; something at least vaguely interesting. I tried various jobs; one of these trains of thought was working in a lab. This is the train that lead me into this job.
I had no real presumptions of what exactly it would be like other than the names of the people I would be working with and that there would be skeletons involved. When I told people what I was doing for work experience they stared blankly back at me bewildered. No one I knew prior to the work experience had any idea exactly what was in store for me. Up until now I haven’t actually explained what the department does. It’s simple; it studies human remains from the London area. These are uncovered from archaeological sites mostly from construction sites. The department is host to over 17,000 individuals more than half from one site; Spitalfields (with roughly 10,500 individuals) and so it is a brilliant resource for budding osteologists.
First impressions were good, it was a friendly environment and I was not set menial tasks which could bore me to death (which I have been told happens with lots of work experience). What it has made apparent to me is one, how tiring work is and two, that it is slightly more relaxed than I had previously expected.
For the largest part of my work experience I have been helping rearrange the boxes in the rotunda to create space and a form of organisation. I have also done some work on the human skeleton so I can (slightly unreliably) name all of the bones in the body (saving individual carpals, tarsals, ribs and some bones in the skull). I can now correctly lay out a skeleton and find its gender. And possibly have a rather shaky guess at the age.
Osteology aside, I have picked up some skills in logistics and some invaluable experience in the workplace. However saying this it has not made much different to my future aims for work (my life plain is still completely indecisive after university).
And lastly I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me or let me help them in my work experience, it was a pleasure.