This summer at the Cambridge Museum of Technology we have had two students working on an upcoming exhibit on local chemist, Mamie Olliver. We asked them to tell us a bit about their time with us and their experience as upcoming museum professionals.
1. Introduce yourselves to our visitors.
Katie – Hi! I’m Katie, from West Palm Beach, Florida. After teaching history for 4 years I decided to go back to school for my master’s in museum studies at the University of Leicester. I’ve loved every second of my time in England so far…probably because most of those seconds have been spent visiting museums!
Xinrui -- I’m Xinrui from China. I’m doing a MA degree course of Museum Studies at University of Leicester. I started my internship at the Cambridge Museum of Technology on 15th July, where my work at the moment is in preparation for the exhibition, Mamie Olliver: A Jam-packed life, opening on 2nd October.
2. How did you decide on creating an exhibit on Mamie Olliver?
Katie – As a history major, I have a love for social history and personal stories. When I saw the Museum’s plan to feature more women in the museum, I knew I wanted to create an exhibit that would spotlight a specific woman’s work. Luckily, my fellow intern and I were in agreement to use the space to feature the story of a woman who advocated for other women to join her in STEM.
Xinrui – Mamie Olliver was the first female chef chemist at Chivers and she made great contribution in nutrition during the Second World War. We both think telling the story of Mamie Olliver could make the museum more inclusive to women, especially in such an industrial museum, the main character is usually male, choosing the Mamie Olliver’s story could make women have more sense of identity and may encourage women join the STEM.
3. What have you enjoyed most about your work placement?
Katie – Some of my favorite parts of this project have been learning the proper care of objects in the collection, including cleaning and presentation; taking a field trip to Blickling Hall to learn about their storage methods; and refining my research skills.
Xinrui – My favorite thing of this project is that we could participate in the whole process of creating an exhibition. This experience provides us a better understanding of what curator’s responsibilities are. I also like that we have much hands-on experience in the project. We did many practical work of the museum sector, such as object handling, labelling, accessing and conservation cleaning. This multiple practical work is a great supplement to our programme.
4. Were there any challenges that your faced during your time here?
Katie – Throughout my 8 weeks here I have encountered challenges that I am glad to have been able to work through under the guidance of my supervisors, Pam, Morgan, and Jinx. For example, learning how to run a review panel, running educational programs, and even working with the basics of finances. These are all tasks I now feel more confident in facing the next time around.
Xinrui – The most challenging thing is to find the objects for our exhibition. We did research about Mamie Olliver and the company Chivers, we went to Cambridgeshire Collection to consult the archives and tried to reach out her colleges, professional societies, village communities, churches to find out more stories and objects of her. We also wrote social media posts for other sources of the objects. And we finally found the proper objects for our exhibition.
5. Why should people come to see this exhibit?
Katie – In this exhibit you’ll find out how Mamie became one of the first successful female chemists, hear personal accounts of Mamie’s work at Chivers from those that knew her and discover how her research helped the war efforts at home and abroad. This is an entire exhibit devoted to telling the story of a fellow member of the community – reminding us of the importance of the people around us.
Xinrui – This exhibition will introduce Mamie’s personal and professional life, you will find out how Mamie became a successful chemist and her contribution to the war effort. Mamie lived in a period where women may have many obstacles in their professional career, her story may be encouraging and inspiring for you.
Keep an eye on our website and social media for more about our new exhibition, Mamie Olliver: A Jam-packed Life, coming soon!