Night at the Museum: with a Curatorial Technician

Alex is a Curatorial Technician at the London Transport Museum. Read on to learn more about how he uses his technical and mechanical expertise to restore and maintain vehicles from over two centuries of London's transport history

 

Day to day ...

...as a Curational Technician I get to work with a historic vehicle collection which includes buses, trains and more. It’s a very exciting role as every day is different and I’m always learning new skills and information which I can share with others. My role also includes caring for and maintaining the collection and occasionally repairing general wear and tear. I also get to work with a fantastic team of staff and volunteers.

My automotive and technical background allows me to do conservation or repairs in-house which other curatorial staff with arts or history backgrounds couldn’t do. I’ve been fortunate to be managed by Senior Curator, Bob Bird, who has been with London Transport Museum for 41 years and has shared priceless skills and knowledge with me. When he retires at the end of February 2020, I will be responsible for using these skills and sharing them with colleagues.

Techncians are key to the London Transport Museum because...

Unlike many museums, we take our collection out onto the road and the rails. When our 1938 stock Underground train is doing a run on the network, I’ll be required to assist with shunting the train outside so that it could be prepared and checked.

I also now take the lead on all rail vehicle shunts at the Museum’s Depot in Acton. The depot holds over 90% of our collection, which includes lots of large collection objects that may need to be moved by a forklift truck from time to time. Nothing is ever simple - all objects have different sizes and weights. Buses often need to be moved, perhaps to attend an event or to be outside at a Depot Open Weekend. To move the buses, I may need to operate the Lansing Bagnall truck, which safely lifts the buses by their front axle. This is very useful when moving vehicles in or out of tight spaces.

I chose this job role because...

When entering the depot for the first time, I knew this was the place I wanted to work.

Before I started my employment at London Transport Museum, I was on a course run by the Museum called Route into Work, which helped with my confidence and opened my eyes to new opportunities. I also volunteered at the depot for two months, which helped me to learn how the museum worked.  

The best thing about my job is...

...having the opportunity to work on a restoration project for the “Waterloo and City Car 61”, a Tube car that operated between 1940 and 1993, has been an unbelievable skills boost.

I now find myself managing this project and completing the work. Overall, I love being able to work on many different projects and continuously learning new things.

The main attribute needed to do my job is...

...enthusiasm and showing interest.

Having communication and listening skills would be helpful in this environment, as everyone wants to share and you must be willing to listen. The role also needs practical skills, particularly mechanical skills associated with vehicles.

If you're thinking about doing a technical career...

...focus on the correct courses for the area you would like to work.

Always push yourself and never give up. If you’re able to volunteer, I would highly recommend this.

Alex's daily routine

09:00

I would start my day with a cuppa followed by a catch up with my line manager to discuss current work or plan our activities for that day. I also need to check my emails to make sure that nothing urgent needs to be done.

10:00

Every Tuesday our bus volunteers meet to help with the road vehicle collection. They assist us with driving, cleaning and supporting us at vehicle events. I normally help with getting our buses out of tight spaces using our Lancing Bagnall truck. I like to do a walk round to check all our buses for wear and tear etc. I may also need to check a few batteries.

13:00

I could be working on the interior of our Waterloo & City car, giving attention to the seating, flooring and window surrounds. At the moment, we are working with a professional conservator on the flooring, so I may also need to supervise and assist his work.

Next, I might be involved with trying to weigh a heavy collection object. We are currently working on a new gallery in the museum, including a large concrete memorial from the Second World War that is very heavy. I must safely remove it from display, weigh it and then form a plan to re-mount it in the gallery without damaging it.

16:00

As I am often working on the collection, I will need to record and document my work.

17:00

Go home


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