This week’s blog comes from Dr Helen Rawson, Co-Director, Museum Collections Unit, who received CAPOD funding to help her attend an international conference in relation to her collections work.
In September 2011 I attended the XI Annual Meeting of UMAC (the International Committee of ICOM for University Museums and Collections) and the associated University Museums and Collections Conference on ‘University History and Identity’, held in Lisbon, Portugal. This was the first time I had attended a UMAC conference. The host institution, the University of Lisbon, was marking its 100th anniversary, and as a conference delegate I was able to learn about and participate in events and activities associated with this.
I presented a paper, based on my doctoral thesis (completed 2010) entitled Six Centuries of Artefacts as Reflections of Identity in Scotland’s Oldest University. This was well received and prompted much discussion, both in formal questions in session, and informally afterwards.
The many interesting conference papers on varied aspects of how collections relate to, and can be used to promote, University History and Identity, were of great relevance to my professional role as Senior Curator (now Co-Director) of the University’s Museum Collections, and to my research interests. A significant part of my role recently has been considering how we can, through the museum venues and collections of the University of St Andrews, mark the University’s 600th anniversary and make our long history accessible to a wide range of user groups and visitors, from staff and students to members of other universities, researchers, tourists, school and community groups and the general public. Following the conference, in 2012 my colleagues and I created a new permanent display in the outer area of the Gateway Galleries marking the 600th anniversary. This year, I curated an exhibition of medieval maces of early European universities, as part of the 600th events programme. This runs at MUSA until 8 December 2013, and is our first exhibition drawing on international loans. Meeting curators of other university museums at the UMAC conference encouraged me to make the approaches which ultimately led to the loan of these iconic objects.
In October 2013 I organized and hosted the 2013 UMIS (University Museums in Scotland) conference in Parliament Hall, on the theme ‘Research in Museums: Museums in Research’. This attracted 91 delegates from across the UK and Europe, including many with whom I had forged links at the UMAC meeting.
The support which CAPOD provided for me to attend the UMAC meeting therefore had many direct and indirect benefits.