Meet a Museum Blogger

Meet a Museum Blogger: Claire Madge

Claire Madge leads a double life.

She’s a librarian, wife and mum to three children under 10. In her spare time (if such a thing exists) she becomes Tincture of Museum, passionate museum volunteer, advocate of kids in museums and late night blogger.

In 2012, when her eldest daughter was diagnosed Autistic she took the decision to quit work at the London School of Economics Library and take a bit more time for her family. Since then the world of museums has becoming an enticing rabbit hole that she can’t seem to escape.

She is only able to do all this amazing stuff because of the unfailing support of her wonderful family.

 Claire MadgeDo you work in a museum? If not, where do you work? Tell us about your job.

I currently volunteer in three museums, the first – Bromley Museum a small council run museum, where it all began for me in Oct 2012. I started as a general volunteer but it wasn’t long before I joined the Panel for Learning and Participation as part of their Heritage Lottery Bid. It has made me look at museums in a whole new light.

The Museum of London has been my inspiration and training ground. I have worked on a couple of projects in their archive repacking archaeology and most recently learning collection cleaning skills. I am just about to join as a permanent collection care volunteer – I can’t wait to get started on projects across the 3 museum sites. They have given me the skills to really observe museum objects, it is funny that learning to see is the simplest and hardest thing I have done.

Finally, I have just joined the Horniman Museum as a volunteer on their Access Advisory Group improving access for people with disabilities to the museum and gardens.

What’s your educational background?

I have an undergraduate degree in History from King’s College London and a postgraduate Masters in Library and Information Studies from University College London.

 What was your ‘sticky’ moment?

I have always loved museums, but it has to be as family judges for the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award in 2012. We went to the Museum of London, I took my notebook and really watched my children. I didn’t tell them where to go, I just followed their discovery of the exhibits and the museum space.  I simply realized how powerful museums can be.

Whilst we were there my daughter had a sensory overload to a tweeting bird song soundtrack, it was frightening and extreme. It has made me understand that there are many barriers to visiting a museum and they are not always obvious. It has made me passionate about highlighting how museums can break those barriers down so every child has the opportunity to be inspired.

What is the name of your blog? How long have you been blogging?

My blog is Tincture of Museum. I began when I quit work in October 2012. I wrote nothing for weeks until I started my first project at the Museum of London in June 2013. Since then I have been pretty much blogging every week.

What do you blog about? Why?

The blog began as something for me, to put down my thoughts and write about the connections objects, experiences and museums make in my head. To be honest it is also a healthy dose of escapism where I forget about being a stressed out Mum to 3 demanding children.

I mainly blog about three things:

      • The work I do as a volunteer, this includes projects I have worked on and training courses. I am currently blogging every week of a 10 week Collection Cleaning Course.
      • Museum exhibition reviews. When I find time to visit for fun, I write reviews. I am invited to press previews for History Royal Palaces, the direct access to curators at these events is always the best bit.
      • I write about Autism in Museums, our experiences and how museums can make life a bit easier for autistic children and their families who just want a day out at the museum

What’s the nicest comment you’ve ever received?

I received some lovely comments after a post I wrote about the Science Museum Early Birds Autism Friendly session (see question 7). The best comment was when I returned to the Science Museum for the next session, when the lady on the desk found out I wrote the blog she told me everyone had read it and I had made her cry. Which I was really pleased about, in a weird way of course, I don’t normally like making people cry.

What’s your most read blog post? Tell us about it.

As I mentioned in question 6, it was a post on a special event the Science Museum run for autistic children and their families. They open up the museum early at 8.30am (normal opening time at 10am) and keep numbers down to allow children to enjoy the environment. I had never taken all my kids there even though we live in South London. I didn’t go to write a review, I went to enjoy a day out with my family, but we had such an amazing time I had to write a thank you to all the staff.

It was the hardest post I have ever had to write, a balance between trying to show why it was so important but also protecting my family and not writing about every detail of our lives.

Up to that point I had maybe had 60 views maximum for a post (which I was very pleased about). That post had over 1,000 views in a day and still gets regularly viewed.

It is the post that made me realise people might actually read my blogs and I could use that to help families like mine. It has helped promote the Science Museum event, and, I hope, show other museums why it is important to run sessions like theirs.  I have been interviewed a couple of times because of the post and quoted in the Museums Journal.

When I am tired and stressed it is the post that keeps me writing.

Do you tweet? Why or why not?

I tweet all the time, about museums, autism, events and stuff I am up to. I can’t resist re-tweeting amazing art work created by children in museums. Also random stuff that makes me laugh (#ExtremeLegoCurator is a prime example).

Why? Because it is fun and it makes me feel connected even though I don’t have a ‘proper job’. I learn lots, have made connections and been invited to events and reviews all through Twitter.

Night at the Museum: love it or hate it?

Because of my kids I have seen this film about a million times. I love it. I took my 3 year old up to the British Museum one day he stopped dead in his tracks and shouted “Dum Dum” he had seen a real Moai – Hoa Hakananai’a  in the gallery. We only visited one thing that day, it is a special memory and one I wrote a post about. I will always love the films for that day with my son that I will never forget.

What do you see as the biggest challenge (or opportunity) facing museums today?

For me, putting to one side issues of funding, the biggest challenge is for museums to continually break down the barriers, they are open to all but not always accessible to all. Sometimes the barriers are outside the museum walls, but so much more can be done to open up the objects and stories to a wider audience. If you watch one child being inspired by a museum, you have to fight to make sure every child has that opportunity, because it is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for participating in Meet a Museum Blogger, Claire!

In case you missed it, Claire blogs at Tincture of Museum.

Do you have additional questions for Claire regarding her profile above? Feel free to start a conversation in the comments below or reach out to her directly on Twitter at @TinctureofMusePlease use the #MuseumBlogger hashtag. TY!

Are you interested in being profiled or know someone who would be? Send an email to MuseumMinute@gmail.com.

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