MuseumsMany thanks for hosting me here today in order to talk a little about my book, The Bones of Our Fathers, which is partly set in the chaotic world of small local museums – a world I know well, having worked in one for over 20 years.
I say chaotic despite the usual idea of museums being rather calm and collected places where rowdy behaviour is frowned upon. But even the most enormous and prestigious of museums have a big difference between there public and private areas.
|Photo by Redjar, from Wikimedia Commons|
The photo above is of a display area in the Science Museum. Look at all that space! I feel so envious. Everything has its own space and there's room for visitors to step back and really admire the exhibits. Small museums do the best they can with the space available but often have to make hard choice about what goes on display and what stays in the stores.
|Photo by János Tamás, from Wikimedia Commons|
Museum stores have to be organised but they frequently don't LOOK organised. Unless an institution is sufficiently well off to have specially designed stores with room for expansion they tend over time to get a bit cluttered. Sometimes one runs out of space and then items are put in any space available – landings, stairwells, above shoulder level shelving in passageways, cupboards under display cases. Behind the scenes even huge iconic museums have storage problems. The British Museum has a bit less than 1% of its collection on display at any one time. I believe the Science Museum's discrepancy between what has been collected and what is on display is even larger. The museum where I work is miniscule in comparison and it's a 90% stores/10% display split, but we sometimes have to turn down objects we might otherwise love to have because we simply don't have space to store them.
Off-site storage is often the answer. We have a small industrial unit shared with 2 other museums where we keep our archaeological pottery, farm machinery, large pieces of furniture, industrial iron work and horse-drawn vehicles. The Science Museum has taken over an entire airfield near Swindon and immense aircraft hangers filled with spaceships, vehicles of all kinds, washing machines, typewriters, scientific apparatus and the paraphernalia needed to display them. One of the curators gave me a guided tour and showed me the exciting gizmo they use to retrieve items from the floor to ceiling racks. Like a forklift on tracks controlled by something that looks like a Playstation handset, it was a piece of kit that would make my hero, Mal, mad with envy!
Length: 80,000 words approx
Publisher: Manifold Press
Cover Design: Michelle Peart
Malcolm Bright, brand new museum curator in a small Welsh Border town, is a little lonely until – acting as emergency archaeological consultant on a new housing development – he crosses the path of Rob Escley, aka Dirty Rob, who makes Mal’s earth move in more ways than one.
Then Rob discovers something wonderful, and together they must combat greedy developers and a treasure hunter determined to get his hands on the find. Are desperate measures justified to save the bones of our fathers? Will Dirty Rob live up to his reputation? Do museum curators really do it meticulously?
Answers must be found for the sake of Mal’s future, his happiness and his heart.
Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and works in a museum in a castle built on the edge of a Roman Fort! She reckons that's a pretty cool job.
Elin usually writes on historical subjects, and enjoys weaving the weird and wonderful facts she comes across in her research into her plots. She likes her heroes hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow. Often they are in danger, frequently they have to make hard choices, but happy endings are always assured.
Current works in progress include one set during the Great War, another in WW2, one set in the Dark Ages and a series of contemporary romances set in a small town on the Welsh border.
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