Curating at Home


The events of the last few months have given many of us a lot of time for reflection. Something I have learned about myself since March is that I don’t like working from home. I had never really spent much time working from home before. My job as a curator means that much of my time is usually spent either in our public venues or deep in our stores. We have been working on a long-term project to move from our old store to our lovely Hub in Northfield. The whole team had been working really hard on the final push when we were told new would be working from home for the foreseeable future. When I left, I had assumed that we would be back to finish up in a couple of weeks, how wrong I was.  

No two households have experienced the same version of lockdown, I really like a phrase which describes this feeling: ‘we are in the same storm but in different boats’. My boat is a flat in the city centre which I share with my husband and our cat who we adopted in February. When you talk to friends and colleagues the difference in experiences is often very noticeable. Those who were lucky enough to live in the country have regaled me with tales of how they have reconnected with nature on long walks, while those in the city like me often felt they had nowhere to go to escape. Likewise having access to a car is something that would have changed your experience of lockdown. For us, this came in the form of one of us attempting to do an entire weeks shopping solo in the local shop and then trudging home with the heavy load, all the way up the 3 flights of stairs it takes us to get to our top floor flat.  

At home, we are lucky enough to have a spare bedroom which we set up as an office early on in lockdown. Having this extra space meant that we were able to take some valuable time to ourselves, even if we weren’t able to go out. For my husband, this meant using his alone time for studying his PhD books. Let’s just say I did not use my time as well and much Netflix was binged. While we were both working from home we took turns using the desk in the spare room and the sofa in the living room, both doing our best to come to terms with what was happening in the world outside while getting on with work the best we could. I have been spending a lot of my time working on the collections management database. This database holds all of the information we have about our objects as well as any photographs or scans we have of the objects. In the last few years, I have been working with some of our amazing volunteers to digitise small 2D items and as a result of their incredible work, I had a huge backlog of images that I needed to upload to the database and website. I have also been spending time researching and using this information to enrich the records we hold on the database and make them more accessible. I am certainly not going to run out of tasks I can do from home anytime soon but I really miss being able to work with the objects themselves.  

Though I have been keeping busy I find focussing at home to be quite difficult. There is always something else which grabs your attention, be it the giant pile of dishes I have been staring at for the past day, or the cat desperate to play with the toys I keep impulse buying for her online. I think a feeling common to many people is that we have not been doing enough during this time. Many of us started lockdown with grand ideas of what we would achieve. I know I certainly did, but as time went on and I was not as productive as I wanted to be, I was feeling a constant low level anxiety and creeping guilt that whatever I was doing was not enough.  

Some things I have attempted to achieve in lockdown to varying degrees of success: 

  • Rearranging the living room in an attempt to cat proof all our stuff (is anything ever really cat proof?) 

  • Get into a consistent exercise routine (actually did quite well on this but I think my downstairs neighbours might disagree) 

  • Teaching myself the ukulele (I am pretty terrible) 

  • Growing some strawberries (they were giant and delicious, the birds and slugs sadly loved them) 

  • Finishing the cross stitch I bought at the Art Gallery’s beautiful Kaffe Fasset exhibition 5 years ago (maybe halfway done at best)

Something else I have learned during lockdown is that I need to give myself some slack. We all need time just now to come to terms with what’s happening in the world and how we cope with this. Even simple tasks like going shopping or posting a parcel have seemed like mammoth tasks to me at certain points. Life has changed and we need to give ourselves time to adjust and realise that time spent coping and taking care of yourself is not time wasted, even if that involves spending hours playing Zelda on your Switch instead of learning a new language. 

At Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums we have just started a project to collect objects and photographs to reflect what our experience of COVID-19 has been as a city. We feel it is very important that we are able to tell future generations the stories of the people of Aberdeen and what they have been through. As I said earlier, we have all been weathering the storm but in different boats, how has your boat been doing? We want to hear about your experiences during this pandemic, good and bad as long as they are significant to you. Have you also been struggling with your focus at home like I have, what has helped you to get through that? How have you been taking care of yourself and blowing off steam? Are there old hobbies or old friends that you have reconnected with? Have a look on your camera reel on your phone, which photos make you smile when you look back at them? It might be something you feel proud of yourself for doing or the first time you saw a loved one for a long time. 

Here a few photos from my phone that I think sum up my experience of the last few months, I hope they help to give you a bit of inspiration into what has been important to you. 




If you would like to contribute please contact us at and tell us a little bit about the photograph or item that you would like to donate to us. We are looking forward to hearing from you.