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4 Jun 2019

Rachel’s exhibiting success

Written by Rachel Campbell
Rachel Campbell, curatorial volunteer at the Tenement House
Rachel Campbell, curatorial volunteer at the Tenement House
In celebration of Volunteers’ Week 2019, we’re highlighting the work of our volunteers. Rachel Campbell is a curatorial volunteer at the Tenement House. Here, Rachel tells us about a new exhibition she’s working on, using items from the museum’s collection.

When I first started volunteering at the Tenement House in Glasgow, I had just finished university where I’d studied History, and was keen to find out more about jobs available in the heritage sector. I started as a volunteer guide, which meant I got to share stories with visitors about Miss Toward’s life in her tenement flat.

Miss Agnes Toward was a shorthand typist who lived at the Tenement House from 1911 until 1965, and preserved her furniture and possessions with love and care. She held on to all sorts of things that most people would have thrown away, and this extensive personal archive has become a valuable time capsule for visitors today.

Whilst sharing Miss Toward’s stories with visitors, more often than not they would share their own stories about their lives growing up in Glasgow. I always found this glimpse into their own personal histories fascinating!

After completing my MA, I was welcomed back to the Tenement House as a curatorial volunteer.

“As a curatorial volunteer, it’s my job to find the hidden narratives our collection has to offer.”
Rachel Campbell
Curatorial volunteer, The Tenement House

I’m currently working on a new exhibition at the Tenement House. This allows me to delve into the treasure chest of objects currently not on display, but kept by Miss Toward, and share the wider stories of life in 20th-century Glasgow that these objects portray.

It’s important to curate an exhibition that showcases some of these previously unseen objects, but it’s also important to ensure the most vulnerable objects are protected for future generations. I’m continuously learning new skills within my curatorial volunteering role. These skills are invaluable and ones I’ll be able to take with me throughout my career in the heritage sector.

A photograph of Miss Toward and friends, from the collection at the Tenement House.
A photograph of Miss Toward and friends, from the collection at the Tenement House.

Getting the opportunity to learn more about the life of Miss Toward is the most exciting aspect of my position. I get to see a whole new side of her through her letters, photographs and keepsakes. Some of my favourite objects include her mother’s scrapbook, a ‘Path to Matrimony’ board game and a book all about the art of fortune telling!

A postcard found in Miss Toward’s collection at the Tenement House
A postcard found in Miss Toward’s collection at the Tenement House

Volunteering with the Trust gives me the flexibility to work with and around my other commitments. It also means I get to learn across different areas. I’ve learned so much about the potential conservation issues including those posed by pests, which I learnt by taking part in our pest-control checks. Webbing clothes moths, for example, pose a huge threat to textile collections and it’s useful to know what to look out for to prevent damage.

In this, the digital era, I’m also learning about the benefits of sharing our collection on social media and the importance of digital outreach.

I get to share my findings with our volunteer guides and hope to work more closely with them to get them more involved with the collection.

By sharing the wider history of Glasgow through the eyes of Miss Toward, I’m doing my part to protect Scotland’s heritage. We have such a unique collection at the Tenement House and I hope that being able to share the stories of the items within it gets the public excited about their own histories, as well as the work the Trust does!

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