The VSA Diary

In our first blog since the reopening, our new Visitor Services Assistants treat us a look behind the scenes in the two weeks prior to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums relaunch.

It’s two weeks before the Museums’ grand reopening. The four of us meet for the first time, and we are brought in to the Museums to look around. We all feel overwhelmed by its size and vast collections of specimens and displays. The halls, alcoves, and winding staircases seem like a maze. Everywhere we look there are piles of boxes, ladders, furniture in plastic wrap, stacks of perspex, tools, plans, lists, and coffee cups. Carpenters, technicians, volunteers, and Museum staff are bustling everywhere.


After learning the layout and orienting ourselves, we are itching to get involved. We spend several days cleaning and gluing new labels to the specimen jars in the upper gallery of the Wohl Pathology Museum. There are hundreds of specimen jars waiting. For every one we complete, there are dozens more waiting, on the shelves and in boxes.  We all feel awed to be working in a place where the public had never been allowed access.


We assist Marianne Smith in the Library, and it’s a welcome break from dusty specimen jars and gluey fingers. In the basement we find another maze of rooms and hallways filled floor to ceiling with boxes of medical texts, some as broad as a coffee table and written before our great-great grandmothers were born. We move the boxes systematically to the new sliding shelf system and unpack the books. It’s hard not to be distracted by tantalising subjects like hypnotism, phrenology, and obscure diseases.


We move more specimens into the Playfair basement storage, carrying hundreds of boxes down a high winding staircase that would not have been out of place on a pirate ship.

Every day there is more work to do: hundreds of piles of rubbish to haul out, more cleaning, re-labeling, dusting, sweeping, carrying boxes. No matter how hard or fast we work, there is still so much more to do. But the whole team pitches in, and their passion and enthusiasm are inspiring.
IMG-20150930-WA0008The Museums’ shop is finally fitted with cash tills and stocked. We focus for a few days on AV and shop training, then it’s back to hauling rubbish and hoovering.

Two weeks go by in a blur, and suddenly it’s the day before reopening. The last dusting cloths and hoover are carried away, everyone is smiling and laughing, and it feels like getting ready for a party.


The Museums are beautifully curated and organised and we walk through them again like we did on our first day, this time enjoying its completion. We feel proud and excited to be part of such a passionate, committed team that dedicate their lives to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums.



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