Ask a Curator

Recently, MOTAT and cultural organisations all over the world took part in the annual Ask a Curator Day on social media. Started waaaaaay back in 2010, it’s a really fun way for ordinary people to ask curators, researchers, or other experts any question they like – and get answers back!

Oh, what’s a “Curator” anyways?

That’s the technical definition but, put another way, it’s the people behind the scenes at MOTAT or any museum who collect, research and exhibit objects of interest, of value – of awesomeness!

So, now meet a few of the curators, librarians and researchers who work at MOTAT, some of the questions they answered, plus cool MOTAT links from our Collections, all from Ask a Curator day:

Who is your favourite scientist?
– Todd Dixon, Exhibitions Curator

Yep, Joan Wiffen really was quite extraordinary!

What is a cool discovery you’ve found in MOTAT’s Collections?
– Freya Elmer, Assistant Librarian – Pictorial

Here’s Charlie Buchanan in action!

What’s your favourite object at MOTAT?
– Simon Wetherill, Library and Archive Manager

Check out these cool old pilot’s log books.

What’s a surprising fact about an object in MOTAT’s Collections?
– Chelsea Renshaw, Assistant Librarian – Manuscripts & Archives

Take a look at the historic Avro Lancaster plane,
as it was being gifted to NZ from France!

What’s a new object at MOTAT that you’re excited about?
– Belinda Nevin – Curatorial Research Manager

Watch this video showing the incredible amount of work
it took to move two huge aircraft to MOTAT!

Questions from the Twitterverse

On MOTAT Twitter, we got heaps of questions: some were brilliant, some just silly, but all in great fun. Here are a few of our favourites questions to MOTAT staff, and their answers.

Q: Do you or the staff give favourite objects pet names?
A: Our tram fleet has a few pet names. No.47 is known as “Big Ben”, No.257 a Fiducia class is known as “The Fid”, Sometimes the single bogie cars such as No.44 were known as dinghies because they pitched and rolled like dinghies at sea!

Q: What is the oldest item in your collection?
A: Our oldest collection item was made by an 11-year-old girl called Ann Cox in 1811 – this was entertainment & education before the iPad…

Q: What’s an object or item in your collection that always makes you smile?
A: You can’t help but smile when you see the HUGE Short Solent we have in our collection.

Q: What’s the oldest piece of Apple technology you have?
A: The oldest Apple tech we have in the collection is an Apple II with the original manuals from 1985.

Q: What is something that you wished you had in your collections?
A: We’ve got a long list of wishes – NZ tech from the late 1970s is high on our list – we’re lucky to have some examples of NZ-made computers but would like more! Early NZ made gaming devices would be another wish, alongside computers.

Q: Are there any songs or playlists you listen to for work?
A: Our curators created a playlist on Spotify to keep them motivated during our first lockdown. We think they have pretty good taste!

Q: What is the creepiest/scariest object in your collection?
A: Ummm…ok, we’ll leave this one here and back away… slowly….

Q: What object in your collection you’d like to test “drive”?
A: It’d have to be the Lancaster Bomber vs. the ‘61 Cooper Climax. Our boss called it for the Cooper Climax, but only with the original V8 engine.

Q: Which of your aeroplanes, cars and trams are still able to fly/drive?
A: Lots of our vehicles trams and rail collections are operational! Our volunteers get them in good nick! The trams run daily, our locos get an outing on Live Days (lockdown levels permitting), and about a third of the vehicles are often driven from storage for display at M1/M2 and back again.

Q: This year has been tough, can you curators give us a laugh? What is the funniest photo or object in the collection?
A: For some reason, this always makes us LOL. Here ya go. Hmmm…why is she so mad?

Q: What inspired you to become a curator?
A: A love of art and enjoyment of art galleries (my first curator role was as an art curator, bit of a jump to technology!) – Nicola Jennings, Collection Researcher – Technology
A: Inspired by the opportunity to learn stories of people and places, and to be lucky enough to share those with people. – Freya Elmer, Assistant Librarian – Pictorial

If you want to see the whole day on social media, just search for #AskaCurator. There are some amazing museums that took part, all over the world, and some may surprise you:

CNN: 15 of the World’s Weirdest Museums

OK, so now here’s your chance! If you have a question for one of our talented MOTAT curators, researchers or librarians, email us now and we’ll pick their big brains for you!