In 2015, the RD Milns Antiquities Museum will interview a number of Museum staff, curators, volunteers, interns, and students for our monthly e-news. This month, we've asked our Summer Scholars, Ansam Hummadi and Campbell Orchard to tell us about their project and what its like to work at the Museum. 
Can you tell us a bit about your position and what you do at the Museum?
Ansam: As a Summer Scholar for the RD Milns Antiquities Museum, I have been working on the database used to store collection information. My work has primarily focused on provenance research, which explores the history of the artefacts since their excavation in the modern world. The project has taught me a lot about museum collection management, as well as data integrity in the catalogue.

Campbell: I am a Summer Scholar from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and am working at the RD Milns Antiquities Museum at UQ. I am currently working on the Museum’s database, going through all the old records and correspondence to find out more about the artefacts and their more recent histories.

What is your favourite part about working the Antiquities Museum?

Ansam: As a BA/LLB student at UQ, I was particularly excited to delve into provenance research. The most exciting part of my work here has been to trace objects in the Museum as far back as possible, to find a record of their discovery in the field. The Museum has a number of artefacts that are not only rare, but have served as a part of private collections for many generations and eventually found their way to the University of Queensland. Having a well documented history for artefacts is essential for ensuring that that item was not acquired in breach of international law (i.e. UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, 1970). This is a significant problem today, given the rampant smuggling of illicit antiquities from unstable regions.

Working in the museum has been a great experience for me and has taught me many valuable skills, such as museum database work. My favourite part about working in the Antiquities Museum has been going through all the old correspondence and documents for each object in the collection and learning about the history of the collection.

What has been the most notable project you have worked on?
Ansam: Researching the private collection of Mr and Mrs James Bomford was a memorable experience, as it required a lot of research and many document deliveries. We found that one of the two Bomford Collection pieces accessioned by the Museum, the terracotta figurine of an actor, was purchased from Charles Ede Ltd, London, in 1981 (81.001). We soon discovered it once formed a part of a lavish private collection formed by either Count Karol Lanckoronska in the mid-nineteenth century, or by Louis de Clercq between 1836 and 1901.

Campbell: During my Summer Scholarship at UQ, I have been researching and documenting the recorded histories of each object in the collection and cleaning up sections of the database, which is also publically available online.
What is your favourite object in the collection and why?
Ansam: My favourite items were the ones with an exciting collecting history. One of the first items I researched was a beautiful whiteground lekythos, which was once part of the collection of the famous diplomat Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin (65.003). The terracotta figurine of a seated actor, cross-legged on a bench, beside a comic mask is a special favourite of mine because it is unique in the Antiquities collection (75.005).

Campbell: This is a very hard question to answer, as my time working in the museum has allowed me to grow quite familiar with a large portion of the collection. Learning the story of each object in the collection has been fascinating. My favourite piece in the collection is an African red slipware lamp depicting the biblical story of Jonah and the whale (95.003), except, instead of a whale there is a Ketos (sea dragon). This is an early depiction of the story, commonly found in early Christian catacombs. I researched early Christian imagery in the Roman Empire last year and it has been amazing to see it in the flesh!
Why do you believe museums are valuable in today’s world?
Ansam: Museums are essential for preserving all that survives from the ancient world. They conserve and value the cultural heritage of those who lived before us and I think they serve as a valuable learning tool not only for students at a university and tertiary level, but also for the entire community. For those of us who will never travel far away, a museum can bring the past to us to experience first-hand in a very real way.
Campbell: The museum is a special institution that brings collections from the private sphere into the public. The museum democratises the idea of the collection and allows anyone who visits a glimpse into the past, rather than just the select few who can afford it. By making collections more readily available to the public, museums encourage people to visit, learn about and research the world’s history. Without today’s museums, most of the research and collaborations achieved would not have been possible, and the artefacts of these bygone days would have remained in the curious cabinets of those who could afford them.
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