Why I (Museum) Blog…

why i blog written in black marker on lined paper

I’ve been blogging since September 2011. If you hadn’t guessed, I was in the middle of reading a lot of Lewis Carroll, and if museums and wonderland have anything in common, it’s that they’re both wonderful and more than a bit odd. Museum Land seemed a sensible title at the time, and it makes as much sense as it ever did.

It took me a while to get going with the blog, not just to find a voice, but to actually commit pen to paper (or fingers to keys?). It was always something I thought I would like to do. I enjoy writing, going to museums and sharing things I get excited about, so blogging seemed like a natural outlet for all of these.

Spend even a short about of time with me or scrolling through the posts, you’ll see that I get excited about a whole heap of things. True Crime? Why not? The history of Marzipan? Hit me. The story of JFK as told by Berlin? Hell yes.

Doing a degree in Classical Studies in London meant that I had come into contact with all the museums you would expect; the British Museum, the Museum of London and that most idiosyncratic of places, the John Soane Museum. Little did I know the joys, quirks and breadth of knowledge the wider world of museums had to share.

Now I had the blog, I had an excuse  a reason to visit more and more museums, I quickly began to visit those outside my Greek and Roman comfort zone. It became a bit of a mission, a raison d’etre almost, to track down and explore the places with the most niche of subjects. My museum visiting habit is a running punchline with friend and family, but it pales in comparison to Jennie Fuchs of Museum Diary, a blogging hero of mine.

In visiting all these places; secret nuclear bunkers, museums full of casts and replicas, even a museum devoted to Doctor Who, I learned a lot, to say the least, not just about the various topics I explored, but about the sector in general. I saw best practice, worst practice and some joyously odd things but what has really stuck with me is how much the people who work and volunteer in museums really love what they do and the objects and artefacts they look after.

Museums cover any topic you can think of and that’s one of the reasons I love them, consider myself very lucky to work in them and extremely fortunate that I can visit as many of them as possible.

As much as I love them, I realise Museums can be scary places; whether they are the imposing temple like buildings like the Ashmolean or the Fitzwilliam, the Cathedral-esque structures of the Natural History Museum or the Pitt Rivers or modern space age (space egg?)  constructions like the Guggenheim, it can be easy to think “that’s not for me.” Even one you get inside, the sheer scale of them can be overwhelming (even for experience museum goers like myself).

Visiting lots of different museums, and writing about them, reminds me what it’s like to be a first time visitor. Yes, these places can be a bit much, but there’s usually a friendly person there to point you in the right direction.

Although on the surface, my blog looks like it’s a collection of reviews, to me it’s something more than that. Yes, I visit museums for fun, but that isn’t the main reason I continue exploring them. Work is one of the reasons that I blog about museums. Take a look at the tag cloud to the left and you’ll notice just how big and bold the words British Museum are.

When I first started blogging, it was to demonstrate that I do indeed have an interest in museums, it strengthened my CV and as it grew, it acted as something of a calling card. When applying for jobs, having something that proved my interest was helpful. Visiting lots of museums, and continuing to do so, allows me to empathise with those visiting my museums for the first time. Seeing what other places are doing gives me lots of ideas (it is research, honest!).

Speaking of jobs, work and all that jazz, I want to point you in the direction of Mark Carnall. He works in museums too, and he’s all about Natural History. He wrote a post on how to apply for jobs in museums and the advice he offers is golden, not just for museum jobs, but for work in general. Mark used to work at the Grant Museum, and they have one of the best museum blogs on the internet, he’s now over at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

So, why do I museum blog?

At the heart of  it all, I do it because I enjoy it. Blogging gives me a chance to sit and think, to reflect on what I’ve seen and what I’ve learned, and most importantly, so share it with others. I could go on about ‘building a personal brand’ but to be honest, I would still be writing even if no one was reading!

Why do I read (museum) blogs?

Blogging actively has led me to all sorts of kindred spirits out there in the blogosphere (if that’s even still a thing). I’ve mentioned some of my favourite people that blog about museums, but there are some fantastic blogs from museums out there too. Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 is *the* museum blog, for reasons that will be obvious once you start reading her stuff.

In the past, and indeed in this very post, I have expressed my love for UCL’s Grant Museum several times over. Not just because they have a jar of moles and a pink fairy armadillo on display. Their blog is fantastic, and reflects the personalities of the people who work there. This is also something that shines through with the Museum of English Rural Life, or MERL for short. One of their posts recently achieved that most magical of internet moments; it went viral. Not just a little bit, but massively. You may have heard about the 155 year old mouse-trap?

If it wasn’t for the platform blogging offers, this story might not have reached the millions that it did!

Why I (museum) social media

At the end of the day, blogging is essentially a form f social media. I like to think of it as long-form Twitter. Alongside developing my blog, my adventures have grown and evolved on social media as well. Jack’s Adventures in Museum Land has a separate Facebook page to my personal one because I know that a lot of my friends don’t share my inexhaustible interest in all things museum, so to save spamming them, I set up a dedicated page. This way those that are interested can keep up and we can have much more fun sharing and talking about museums – not just my stuff, but interesting articles or news pieces from other places too.

Twitter has been the most fun to play with. I use it semi-professionally, for every tweet about Museums, you’ll find one or two about subjects like baking, cats, Game of Thrones… you name it. Twitter, however is my first port if I’m off on holiday and looking for not-to-miss museums. Most importantly, it has connected me with others. Other bloggers like Jennie Fuch’s Museum Diary, the hella-cool folks over at The Ministry of Curiosity and the wonderful Tincture of Museum, whose blog is a joy to read, have come to my attention via Twitter, and I’m sure there are even more that I’m forgetting.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that these two platforms are *brilliant* at driving traffic this way 😉

I use Instagram and pinterest too. Instagram is a fun way to share pictures, and when I’m adventuring I always take more than I use on the blog, so I can still have a way to share things.

So, yes. I Museum Blog and I love it.

 

 

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