A day well spent in Aberdeen (Chantal Umuhoza, Rwanda, ITP 2018)

Written by Chantal Umuhoza, Curator Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy, (Rwanda, ITP 2018)

I am extremely grateful that ITP chose me again to participate in this wonderful program. Last year I had a nice experience attending the Museums Association Conference for my first time, although we had opportunity to learn and exchange with others, especially the ITP family, I am enjoying being here physically because apart of meeting new people, bonding with ITP fellows we have a chance of visiting different Museums, spend more time exchanging with other museum professionals exploring different galleries and learn from their best practices.

On Tuesday we spend our day at Aberdeen (North East of Scotland). In the morning after two hours on the train we had a warm welcome of Neil Curtis, Head of Museums and Special Collections and Abeer Eladany, Curatorial Assistant, at the University of Aberdeen Museums and Special Collections. After a general overview of the history of the museums, Neil explained how their collections of human culture, natural sciences and medicine are being reinterpreted and revaluated, for the sake of decolonization and increasing accessibility to museums collections. Neil also told us the project that they are doing together with other museums in Scotland (Reveal and Connect) to help in the repatriation process of different collections. We had also an exchange about public engagement, accessibility, loans, travelling exhibitions and then we toured the stores.

Group photo in front of a stained glass window at Marischal college, Aberdeen

Over the lunch at Aberdeen Art Gallery (home to one of the finest collections in the UK) with management team, we discussed about different issues like how we responded to Covid -19 and visitors’ needs in our museums during the pandemic. After lunch, we had an introduction of the fine and applied art collections that the museum is housing, how the museum was redeveloped between 2015 and 2019 to improve visitor facilities. We had amazing tour by Helen Fothergill, Service Manager, archives, gallery and museums, and Madeline Nehring, Museum and Gallery Collections. I really enjoyed the way the museum engages with different audiences through their labels and interactive hands-on activities on sites, how the museum’s display is accessible to people with different disabilities, What I enjoyed most is when I and my colleagues were posing for a photo in a small studio at the museum.

We also visited the Aberdeen Maritime Museum and had the introduction to the history collections, contemporary collecting science and industry by Curators Jim Inglis and Jenny Brown and explained how they care for their collections and how they respond to their visitors’ needs. After that we took our train back to Edinburgh. I would say that the day was well organised because at each venue we had amazing and enjoyable experience.