Museum Studies student Sahava Baranow is currently on a placement at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA). Zoe Hendon finds out how she's been getting on:
ZH: Sahava, can you start by telling us about yourself and your course?
SB: At the moment I am doing an MA in Museum Studies at UCL, where I am learning about the history of museums, and how they can be effectively studied to improve what they are doing. The course is divided into a theoretical part and a practical part, so I have had to write academic essays as well as budget plans, and I have also learned things like how to build crawling insect traps.
My previous academic background is in transnational history, with a focus on the period around 1900, but I have always loved museums and the work they do. So after having done some volunteering, I decided that completing a degree to learn about museums in a more structured way would be the best thing for me to do.
ZH: Why did you want to do a placement at MoDA?
SB: Since I have developed a focus on Japanese collections in the last year or so, I got quite excited about the possibility to work with MoDA and when I found out that they were looking for somebody to do some work on their Charles Hasler collection, I applied immediately with the hope of being able to look into Japanese objects along the way. When I came in for an interview, however, I ended up talking more about Japanese material culture than anything else. The museum got back to me and told me that I could do a research project around katagami (Japanese stencils) to create a placement that fits the needs of the collections as well as my personal interests.
ZH: What have you been doing at MoDA?
SB: I have been doing some research into katagami, which are part of the Silver Studio collection to find out more about their design and their significance in Japanese aesthetics and mythology. I also got a chance to go to ULITA in Leeds, to look into their collection of katagami.
At the same time, I have been able to make the most of my German by looking at some of the German-language objects in MoDA’s collections. [look out for another blogpost on these in the next few weeks].
ZH: What have you learnt as the result of your placement here?
SB: During my time here I have learned practical things, like how to use the museum catalogue and how to handle fragile books and magazines. I have learned about the intricacies of archival and object-based cataloguing methods and how a museum within a university can operate. Working here has also led me to be more creative in thinking about different ways of displaying objects in museums. Of course, I have also learned a lot about katagami and their meaning within the collection, and the culture they came from.
ZH: Was there anything unexpected about this placement?
SB: What impressed me most at MoDA was how nice everybody here is. I have worked in other museums before and I have always found that people in cultural institutions are friendly, but at MoDA I felt welcome, taken care of and I was always looking forward to my days here.
ZH: What’s next for you now?
SB: After this placement I am going to focus on finishing my MA and some projects I have been working on at other museums in London. But I’m also really pleased that I have just been offered the post of Assistant Curator at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, where I will help to redevelop the permanent collection displays.
Sahava has been a great asset to the team while she's been here, and we wish her every success in her future career.