The Wandering Museum Consultant Update


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Things have been slowly coming together for the Wandering Museum Consultant project, and my departure date is fast approaching.

I will be spending most of the summer in the UK, with a two week stop in Dublin, Ireland. I will be posting quick introductions to each of the Museums I will be working with over the next month before I leave.


June 3 – 13: Vindolanda Charitable Trust, UK

June 16 – 27: Dublin, Ireland (Museums:  Hurdy Gurdy Radio Museum and Dublin Museum Marathon, details to come)

July 7 – 11: Farmland Museum, Cambridgeshire , UK

July 14 – 18: Cheshire (?, Silk Museums, Macclesfield),

July 21 – 25: Cumbria (Museums tbc) and , UK


If you are interested in hosting me at your museum, please contact me at

The Best and Worst Cups of Coffees Ever…

As I was making coffee this morning at work,  I was exclaiming to a colleague how much I love coffee – It’s a lot. We were discussing how all coffee is good, even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all, and I was reminded of the worst cup of coffee I had ever tasted.

The worst cup of coffee ever:

A few years ago, when I was living up in Northwestern Ontario, I was driving between my then home, Fort Frances, and the small city of Kenora (even further to the north). I stopped at a small roadside community along the highway for a cup of coffee for the road. I won’t say which community, but there are not that many. I went into their only store and came out with some snacks and a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a sip until I was on the road again – it was awful.

So awful that I put it in my cupholder and didn’t even absentmindedly attempt to drink from it for the remainder of the trip.

It tasted like someone had made coffee a week earlier, then the grinds had gone mouldy and they brewed another pot with them. Then two days later I came along.

Either that or they ran out of coffee and just used dirt.

Now for a very different story.

The best cup of coffee ever:

As an undergraduate student in archaeology, I spent the summer between my 3rd and 4th year in Jordan. On the way there, six friends and I made a side trip to Egypt. Our return flights to Cairo were an add-on to our main flights to Jordan and were with Royal Jordanian airlines.

The flight from Amman, Jordan to Cairo, Egypt is a short flight, but they still fed us lunch; part of that lunch was the most heaven-like, velvetty coffee I have ever tasted.


Only myself and one other in my group, Susie, had the coffee, and we spent the next week and a half reliving that coffee. Telling the others about it, and generally dreaming of the return flight to Amman when we would once again get to taste the most perfect cup of coffee in the world.

Sadly, when the return coffee was finally acquired – seven cups, one for each of us…

It was not the same! 

We were so dissapointed! The best we can figure is that someone important had been on that first flight and they had brought out the good stuff. That or the attendants on this second flight did not have the magic touch of the first.

So, the story of the best coffee ever ends on a sad note; I will likely never taste that coffee again…

But I can still hope that one day we will cross paths.

Budget Museum Hacks: 100 uses for foam board – #2 – A chalkboard


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100 uses for foam board- #2 – A Chalkboard

Foam board use #1 – flip books

This use of foam board is simple. A low-cost reusable chalkboard for adding an interactive element to your temporary exhibitions.

The chalkboard

I created this chalkboard for the extremely low budget Lost Collections of the Ancient World exhibit. One of the central objects in the exhibit was a large clay pot full of perforations, the “Mystery Vessel,” so named because we did not know the original intended purpose of this pot. So, we asked exhibit visitors to write what they thought it might be on the chalkboard. This helped add a evolving and interactive component to the exhibit.

"What do you think it is?" Chalkboard

“What do you think it is?” Chalkboard

The chalk can be removed just like from a regular board. You can of course paint chalkboard paint directly onto a wall, but the foam board ‘s lightweight and portability allows it to be easily hung and re-hung in different locations throughout the museum and exhibits.


  • 1 foamboard (cut to size)
  • Chalkboard paint (you can purchase this at a most hardware stores, or try making your own, it’s cheaper and you can make it any colour you want!)
  • finishing nails
  • hammer

Step 1: Paint the foam board with an even layer of chalk board paint

Step 2: Let it dry

Step 3: Use the finishing nails, one at each corner (plus one more along the middle of each edge – if making a large chalk board) by gently tapping in the finishing nails – this takes practice, you don’t want to hit the foam board with your hammer – It will dent!

And your done! 

Further suggestion: Do you want to have a full wall chalkboard without the permanancy? Try painting multiple foam boards and puzzling them together on the wall.

If you have a Budget Museum Hack of your own let me know! I would welcome guest blogs in this series :)

The Wandering Museum Consultant


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What is the Wandering Museum Consultant?

Short Answer: A crazy idea.

Proper Answer: An experienced museum professional wandering around the world, and spending time at a variety of museums offering my services as a volunteer consultant. Throughout, I will be blogging about each museum, the region/country and the project itself.

The purpose of the Wandering Museum Consultant is two-fold:

1) The museums will benefit from:

  • Extra help from an experienced museum professional
  • Exposure to non traditional markets through my blog

2) I will benefit:

  • Experience in different types of museums and in different countries
  • Develop a network (perhaps connect those I work with with each other as well)
  • Meaningful travel

I have seven years experience working in museums, primarily in Canada, but also in the UK. I have had the opportunity to work in small museums, where I have been able to develop skills in many different areas, including education programming and delivery, collections management and research, exhibition research and design, volunteer management and museum governance. In October 2012 I was honoured with an Ontario Museum Association’ Promising Leadership Award of Excellence for my body of work. Please check out my C.V. for more on my experience and accomplishments.

Currently, I am putting together an initial short term Wandering Museum Consultant program for this summer (a bit of a trial run). I will be spending the summer in Europe, and I am looking for 3 more 2 week placements in the UK or Europe. I am doing these placements on a volunteer basis, however, I greatly appreciate a donation of housing where I go (this does not need to be private accommodation, I am perfectly happy to be in spare rooms, etc.).


June 3 – 13: Vindolanda Charitable Trust, UK

June 16 – 27: Dublin, Ireland (Museums TBC)

July 7 – 18: ?

July 21 – August 1: ?

If you are interested in hosting me at your museum, please contact me at

Fun Link for Fridays – The Lascaux Caves Animation


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The Lascaux Caves Animation

Click the title above for a fascinating view on the Lascaux Cave paintings (c. 15,000 BCE), which were found in the Dordogne region, southwestern France, in 1940. Many of the paintings seem to represent the animals in various stages of movement, the video linked above demonstrates how they may have been intended to be shown in a state of animation.

Aurochs from the so-called 'Hall of Bulls'

Aurochs from the so-called ‘Hall of Bulls’
(Click photo for source)

This past summer I was lucky enough to visit the travelling exhibit “Lascaux III” at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. This travelling exhibit, features the incredibly realistic replica of portions of the caves. The Lascaux caves themselves have been off limits to tourists since the 1980s (to ensure their preservation) and these replicas are the closest most of us are going to come to seeing the caves for ourselves. They are certainly a pretty good substitute, and the exhibit itself is wonderfully interactive and engaging.

Lascaux III is currently at The Houston Museum of Natural Science until March 23, 2014. It will then be hosted by Le Centre des Sciences in Montréal, Québec from April 19 to September 15 2014. Lascaux II, the permanent exhibit near the original caves, features similar replicas and can still be visited as well. If you will be in any of these areas, I highly recommend visiting.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day or Lupercalia (Or whatever you would like to call it)

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. This seemingly random holiday has it roots in a very old Roman (probably even pre-Roman) holiday called Lupercalia, which was a festival centering around fertility and took place over the ides of February, (13th -15th). It consisted mainly of sacrifices (specifically two goats and a dog) followed by naked men running around hitting women with pieces of the sacrificed animals – which the women lined up for (being hit with the sacrificial animals was supposed to promote fertility and ease childbirth). Definitely a strange holiday.

You can learn more about Lupercalia here.

The real purpose for my post today however, is to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day! Please, enjoy the series of Doctor Who and Sherlock Valentine’s cards collected from around the internet <3

Budget Museum Hacks: 100 uses for foam board – #1 – Flipbooks


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100 uses for foam board- #1 – Flipbooks

Now I don’t know if I actually have found 100 uses for foam board (which I have always called foam core), but I am confident that I could. I have definitely found a lot of non-standard uses for the relatively cheap museum (small to medium sized museums anyway) staple. Traditionally these boards are used for mounting images and labels for exhibit.

Foam board

Foam board

The title for this blog comes from a comment a former Boss of mine made about 5 years ago. I was working up in the north of Ontario and developing exhibits on a basically a petty cash budget. What I did have was a good supply of foam board. Therefor, whenever I needed something I did not have and couldn’t buy cheaply (or locally), I would make it out of foam board: Brochure holders, small display stands, and I even made a book strut once. One of the easiest and most effective uses I found is what I call a flip-book.

The Flip-book

These flip-books, which are similar to the poster racks you can flip through in stores,  came about due to a need to display more material than I had space for. And also as a way to solve the problem of a flat 1-dimensional exhibit space. I was working with a traveling exhibit, the kind that consists primarily of images, and a few panels. Great content, but very flat in an exhibit space. I also had lots of great photos.  These flip-books became a way of adding some dimension and interactivity without spending a lot of money.


  • 2 foamboards (any size, as long as they are the same)
    • Use any colour you like, white is cheapest, but black is great. You can use coloured  foam board as well, to add a splash of colour to an exhibit space).
  • finishing nails
  • Ruler (A large square ruler works best)
  • Pencil
  • a hammer
  • box cutter

Step 1: Measure the exact centre of each board and draw a pencil line (this will be the back, so don’t worry about the pencil). Orient the boards either way you want.

Cut on short or long side

Cut on short or long side

Step 2: Using the ruler as a straight edge, carefully cut along your pencil line with the box cutter on each board. Being very careful to only go through the top layer of paper and about half-way into the central foam (you don’t want four pieces).

Step 3: Carefully snap the remaining portion of the foam core of each board. You now have two foam boards that fold in the centre, but are held together very nicely with the remaining side. (optional step: you may want to reinforce the seam with some form of tape, if your books will see a lot of wear).

Step 4: Adhere your photographs, labels etc. to your boards as you normally would, paying attention to how they will eventually be displayed on the wall. (Remember you will have both the front and back of the free-hanging sides.

Step 5: To mount the filp books you will need a partner. Place the left hand side of the left board against the wall in the correct position. Then hammer (or gently tap) a finishing nail into each corner – this takes practice, you don’t want to hit the foam board with your hammer – It will dent!

Step 6: Square the right side of the book up against the left and repeat step 5.

And your done! 

Tap finishing nails into the corners.

Tap finishing nails into the corners.


If you have a Budget Museum Hack of your own let me know! I would welcome guest blogs in this series :)

Fun Link for Fridays – The Gertrude Bell Archive


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The Gertrude Bell Archive – Newcastle University

Gertrude Bell set up the Baghdad Museum in Iraq (then Mesopotamia) and was single handedly responsible for drafting legislation that would keep Mesopotamian artefacts in the country – at a time when artefacts were whisked away to the West faster than the soil they came from could settle.

If you don’t know who Gertrude Bell is, please read more about this wonderful female archaeologist from the early 20th century. She became known as the Queen of the Desert, and was immensely influential in the development of not only archaeology in the Middle east (she was fundamental in the opening of the Baghdad Museum), but also the development of the modern borders; she served as a spy during WWI and spoke many languages. Basically, she was a kick-ass woman in a time when that was pretty abnormal.

The Gertrude Bell Archive is a fully accessible online collection of her photographs, diaries and letters.

The photos are a bit difficult to search through, and the search function didn’t really seem to be working when I was looking through, but they are absolutely worth perusing. Wonderful photos from the middle east c. 1900 – 1918.

Some of Gertrude Bell’s photos of places I have been to!

"A_377 - Jarash (April 1900) Jerash - the large theatre [S theatre (from left of cavea looking towards stage) Oval piazza behind theatre (Forum - ringed by colonnade of Ionic columns) and Jerash in background]"

Jarash (April 1900)

- Jarash (April 1900)
Jerash – the large theatre [S theatre (from left of cavea looking towards stage) Oval piazza behind theatre (Forum - ringed by colonnade of Ionic columns) and Jerash in background]

I visited Jarash in 2004, when I was in Jordan participating in my undergraduate archaeological field school. It is an amazing Roman era city. 

Petra (March 1900) The Deir

Petra (March 1900)
The Deir

Petra (March 1900)
The Deir [Ed - Deir, 'monastery', has the largest facade in Petra - 50 metres wide, 45 metres high. Urn rests on free-standing Nabataean capital]

Same trip as Jarash, the Monastery (al Deir) is at the top of a 45 minute climb up the original Nabataean steps. 

Petra (March 1900) The Khaznet Faraoun

Petra (March 1900)
The Khaznet Faraoun

Petra (March 1900)
The Khaznet Faraoun [Khazneh Phar’oun – “Pharoah’s Treasury, tomb of Nabataean king.

The Khaznet Faraoun at Petra, also known as the treasury, might be a bit familiar. It acted as the location of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I can’t say I found any grails while I was there. 

The Top 5 Reasons I Love Museums


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The Top 5 Reasons why I Love Museums

1) Artefacts: Handling, Preservation and Conservation

I’m first and foremost an archaeologist, and because of this I actually think a Saturday afternoon spent cataloguing and photographing an interesting archaeological collection is great fun to be had. ;P I may be unique in this.

However, there has been a lot of talk bouncing around the museum world lately about whether a museum needs a collection to be a ‘Museum.’ Whereas, I do think there are valid examples of instances where a collection isn’t necessary; I do think that the element of authenticity found in real artefacts is unbeatable.


Cuneiform Foundation Cone c. 2144 – 2124 B.C.E
(Part of the Lost Collections exhibit)

2) Environment: The meeting of like minded people

The Best place to find other people who like museums, art, culture, history, heritage, etc. is to work at, volunteer for, or generally just hang around at museums!

At the Lost Collections Opening

At the Lost Collections Opening

3) Learning: Fueling our life long curiosities

I love learning new things, and it’s almost impossible to visit a museum and not learn.

Students participating in simulated underwater archaeology dig

Students participating in simulated underwater archaeology dig

4) Heritage: Housing and interpreting our collective Cultures

Museums offer visual essays of our collective cultures (Like a real life Pinterest!). Visitors are able to explore a cross-section of artefacts and images that illustrate the history of a place, people, or culture. (However, It is important to note that the stories told are usually those the local populations want told. Museums often avoid conflict and/or can be used as propaganda – the latter I do not like at all.)

5) Commentary: The past can illustrate the Present and inform the future

I especially enjoy exhibitions that have a well thoughtout and illustrated thesis. I find these kinds of exhibitons are rare, but when they are successful, they have the power to make social commentary, offer new interpretations of past cultures and events and they can help others to understand just why the past is worth knowing.

I’m Back!

It has been 6 months since my last post on this blog, and 9 months since my second last post. The big question is why? Why have I fallen into a slump?

It hasn’t been because of a lack of ideas, since I have at least a half dozen posts that I had started and were stored on this account as a draft. And probably dozens more that never even made it that far. In fact, this post itself sat a couple weeks as a draft.

In all honesty, I  think I have been pretty burnt out. I have recently become interested in the Meyers-Briggs personality types and now I think I understand why that burn out occurred.

As it turns out my pernality type is  INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, perceptive),  The dreamy Idealist. I think my family and friends would find the description quite apt. I don’t want to go into the reasons here, but basically my personal life has been extremely condratictory to my personality. This has led to daily life wearing me out and draining the energy that I used to have for my own projects. Now that I understand better what these contradictions are, I am able to work to right them.

And so, I am back!

I have begun painting again, and working toward a couple personal projects that I need to give my priority.

One of these projects is my my painting, So, if you are interested in commisioning a painting, pet portrait, travel memory, etc. Please take a look at my art site NewMuseumKat’s Art

I finished a small painting of my own cat Pickle this morning :)

Pickle as a bobble-headed kitten

Pickle as a bobble-headed kitten


p.s. I welcome no comments about the ‘pop psychology’ of personality types. I do not care.



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