5 minutes with… Rhi Smith

Rhi Smith is the Director of Museum Studies. She teaches our new undergraduate degree course, which students can combine with Classics or Archaeology, starting at Reading this Autumn. Find out about what she’s being doing this week in the run up to the University’s Open Days….


Rhi on holiday at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire

Rhi on holiday at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire

What have you been doing this week?

I’ve just come back from a holiday so it’s been hectic. The University has two Open Days this week and I’m trying to organise our contribution. The new Museum Studies programme is starting in October and I’ll be talking to potential students and their families. We offer a joint programme so I’ve been liaising with colleagues in Classics and Archaeology to get everything running smoothly. I made the foolish decision to smarten up the cases in the Archaeology foyer at the last minute. It’s been so humid that all the adhesives are failing! Luckily my colleague Alexandra who runs the Lyminge excavation blog  is helping me. That excavation has found some of the earliest evidence of heavy ploughing in the UK so it’s got a nice link back to MERL.

Archaeology Department case

Archaeology Department case

I’ll be in the Ure Museum as it’s a little bit closer to the main hub than MERL for Open Days. I’m taking out a handling collection so I’m sorting out security and conservation with the staff there. I’ve just found out they have a new app so I’m also going to nab an iPad and let people have a look. The apps were designed in collaboration with University of Reading students and local schools. It’s a really nice way to show how much students can get involved with what the museums on campus are doing.

How are you involved in Our Country Lives project?

To get a bit academic for a moment my research is on the re-interpretation of abbeys (hence the picture above!)  In the USA the National Parks interpreters have talked about ‘compelling stories’ told ‘in compelling ways’. I like that idea of not just transmitting information but telling stories that make people think about the world in new ways.  My research also examines how communities may contribute to the decision making process. So I’m generally sticking my oar in at all the meetings we are having about the project.

On a more practical level, my students do a lot of work in the museum galleries and stores. When I first heard about ‘Our Country Lives’ I thought “where am I going to teach while the work takes place?” Once I calmed down I realised that this is actually a fantastic opportunity for students to be working in a museum while it is being refurbished. I am talking with staff and our consultant team about including students in the project and activity plan. If the Ure project is anything to judge by, I am sure they will have lots to contribute.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what I’m up to, you can follow my Museum Studies Reading blog 

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