Aisha Burtenshaw
Registrar, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford
I have been in the Registrars’ Office at the Ashmolean for over 10 years now and if there is one thing that is certain, it is that there is no such thing as a typical day! Each day is hugely varied as I also head up the Touring Exhibitions Department as well as the Registrar’s Office, so I never quite know what to expect. This is probably the reason why I love my job so much!
Today is a prime example of how varied things can be. I started the day with a to-do list mostly comprised of loan agreements to draw up for inward and outward loans, transport quotes to analyse and indemnity applications to complete. I make a cup of tea and settle down to work. After around ten minutes I get a phone call from our events team to say that they have a life-size plastic camel in one of the galleries and can I help to get it out of the loading bay? So I leave my tea to go cold and go and assist with the removal of the camel. Back to the office thirty minutes later and I am ready to get cracking with the loan agreements. An e-mail pings – a new venue would like to display one of our touring exhibitions. Great news, but this means looking at object lists and facilities reports, getting in touch with various colleagues and beginning the arrangements to get this programmed in. This takes much of the morning.
As lunch time approaches, I start to think about maybe leaving the Museum for a bit to take in the dreaming spires of Oxford but at 12:30 another phone call comes in. Christina Gernon, our Assistant Registrar is undertaking a site visit at one of the colleges where we have a number of works on long-term loan. It appears that they had forgotten that a framed textile did not belong to them and they have decided to take it down and leave it propped up against the wall in their dining room. So, lunch forgotten, I make a hasty call to our technicians and a few minutes later I am sat in our van en route to the college on an emergency rescue mission. The textile is quite large and at the top of a narrow, winding staircase. It is immediately apparent that it is too large for our van and will need to be unframed and rolled before returning it to the Museum. Unfortunately, the textiles conservator is on holiday for the next three weeks. So, a quick scout around the college is undertaken and we find an unoccupied office where the textile can be stored until it can be unframed. We manage to get it down the staircase and safely stored away.
Back to the office again, and I try for the third time to get started on the loan agreements. I manage to get half way through the first on my pile and I get another urgent e-mail, this time from an international venue that is due to open one of our touring exhibitions the next day. Their Director has decided he doesn’t like the colour of one of the walls – might we agree to works being deinstalled to allow the wall to be repainted and then reinstalled ready for the private view the next night? I don’t even know where to start with this can of worms, maybe the loan agreements, indemnity applications and transport quotes will have to wait for tomorrow….

 Aisha in action: packing works for loan in Ashmolean’s Transit Store

Aisha’s favourite objects:

Namikawa Yasuyuki Vase with Waterfall over Rocks, metal with cloisonné enamel (EA2002.177) © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
“This is one of the very first objects that I handled when I started at the Ashmolean. I love the colours and the simplistic beauty of it”.
Samuel Palmer Self-portrait Black chalk on paper (WA1932.211) © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
I find this piece absolutely mesmerizing and I could stare at it for hours. It was one of a number of loans made in my first year here at Ashmolean”.
Shrine of Taharqa Sandstone (AN1936.661) © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

“This is the ultimate transport project! This is the largest intact Egyptian building in this country and it was brought to the UK in the 1930s block by block (236 sandstone blocks!), with each block individually wrapped in palm fibres and crated. It was then rebuilt in our galleries”.

Would you like to share a ‘typical’ Day in your Life? We’re always looking for new contributors, so do get in touch with any of the Committee