By Roxanne Kalenborn
So I went to my first day of my internship, and I think it's safe to say it will be an interesting semester. The building I'll be working in half my time is in a neighborhood called Begger’s Bush where the Natural History Museum holds their 2.5 million artifacts that aren't currently on exhibition. Yes, that figure is correct. I know, right? They house the collection in an old army barracks built in the 1830s.
My supervisor, Nigel the "Keeper," or Curator, of Collections, is a lovely grandfatherly sort of guy and we spent the majority of my first day just "rummaging around" in the collection as he put it, which was really cool because he gave me a tour of all the rooms in the morning and then I tagged along when he gave a group of Trinity students a tour in the afternoon. I was so surprised when he let the 20 students who were all about my age literally rummage through the collections, encouraging them to open cabinets and open drawers and pick up collection pieces. Because my previous collections experiences have been to treat artifacts and objects like they're made out of glass that will shatter if you even look at them in the wrong way; I couldn't bring myself to touch anything, but I'm sure I'll soon get used to picking up taxidermy birds and dodobones like it's just any old thing and I've been doing it every day of my life.
Another aspect of my work environment I really enjoy are tea breaks. Tea breaks are a wonderful invention where everyone (the eight people on staff) stop whatever they're doing at 11 am and 4 pm and take a half hour break together in the little staff room and drink wonderful black tea with milk and sugar, or gross instant coffee, whatever floats your boat, but I bet you can't guess which one I drink. They all eat lunch together as well, and they talk and gossip and comment on the day's news or the weather or both, and I like it. I saw so many things in the collections, all of them interesting/freakish in it's own special way. Here's a short list of some of the artifacts I saw and will soon be working with: Dodo skeleton (last of 20 in the world), bag of woolly mammoth hair, monkey skull with braces on it, more kinds of pickled fish and mammals than you can shake a stick at, random dinosaur bones, a room full of 17,000 birds in pull out drawers, the zebra whose stripes have faded to brown, tanks of preserving chemicals big enough to fit a small shark in (and surprise! that's exactly what's in there!), and a room full of animal skulls from various livestock. So. You know, just the sort of normal everyday things I usually run across during the course of a day.
Anyway, last weekend I went with a couple of people from my program to the small coastal village of Howth (pronounced Hoe-th) which is about 45 minutes away from Dublin by train and is only about 2 euro for fare, which is nice. It's easy to forget that Dublin is so close to the sea and even has it's own bay, but to really see the water it's nice to go out of the city. Near the train station there were market stalls set up with food, used books, and the typical farmers market fare you'll find at most small adorable markets anywhere. We walked up to see the views from a golf resort and tried not to look like riff-raff while we stood on their manicured green and took pictures. Then we hiked back down and walked along the sea wall and I tried to hide my absolute terror from the others of falling off the ledge we stood on. I think I did an ok job of it, as evidenced in the last picture below.