Who are the users of the information that museums research and record about their collections? In many cases full collections records are only accessible internally. That information may then be mediated through curatorial, interpretation, and other teams to create a public facing output.
This post explains my use of Instagram to share digitised photographs from the Powell-Cotton Museum collections, with the aim of increasing access and raising awareness of the collection among Somali and Somali diaspora audiences. I am not a professional social media manager, so I made use of available tutorials and advice, and applied my ideas about collections engagement to creating Instagram content. Read More
This blog post explains the process of creating a numbering system for the photographs in the Powell-Cotton Museum’s collections. It is not written as a ‘how to’ or even what I would necessarily recommend as best practice, but rather an attempt to describe the process of arriving at a system that works in this specific context. The Collections Trust sensibly recommends not re-numbering a collection, but in this case while the photographs had been numbered, it did not constitute a logical system that made sense in a modern museum context. Read More
As I began my project, I wanted to know more about the narrative that the Powell-Cotton founder and patriarch, Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton had put out into the world. He published two books, A Sporting Trip Through Abyssinia (1902) and In Unknown Africa (1904). In Unknown Africa deals with the collecting trip which will be one of my case studies, so I purchased a paperback reprint and started reading.Read More
I went to see the ‘[Re:]Entanglements’ exhibition at MAA in Cambridge before it closed in April 2022. Like my work, the project was concerned with an ethnographic photographic archive. While I have wondered whether the Powell-Cottons photographs of people can be divorced from their colonial origins, I was struck that this display speaks of re-entangling rather than detangling objects from their problematic histories.Read More
On Friday 11th March I was lucky to be able to attend the first workshop of the People and Plants project.
The workshop brought together a mixture of museum professionals, botanists, researchers, Somali diaspora women, and Powell-Cotton collections and gardening staff to look at the ethno-botanical specimens collected by Diana Powell-Cotton during her trip to Somalia in 1934-5.
When I found out that the Headley Fellowship scheme had opened up to freelance curators in the summer of 2021, I knew I wanted to apply, and I knew immediately that the museum I wanted to approach was the Powell-Cotton. It is an extraordinary collection, almost entirely collected by one family, and run by members of that family until 2006. The team now running the museum are dedicated to reimagining the museum – decentring the family and decolonising museum practice, guided by their vision ‘people matter’.