The past brought alive with music

August 31, 2007

Name: Jenny Nex

Age: 35

Job: Curator of musical instruments, Centre for Performance History, Royal College of Music. Four days a week I look after the collection, teach and supervise students, provide public access, facilitate research access, answer inquiries, vacuum and do anything else. On the fifth day, I do my own research, which keeps me sane(ish).

Salary: Better than it used to be, thanks to job evaluation.

Training/education: BMus (Hons) from Edinburgh University, postgraduate certificate from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as an Early Music singer, MA in museum and gallery management from City University; working on a doctorate in the sociology department of Goldsmiths College.

Working hours? Theoretically 35 hours per week - in practice, as many as I can fit in.

What's your department like? The Centre for Performance History, which includes the Museum of Instruments, is an exciting and stimulating place to work. We have a small but dedicated team.

What is your office like? Small and dark. The museum is at the back of the college and surrounded by taller buildings, so the light levels are ideal for preserving objects but not so good for preserving people.

What's your biggest challenge this year? As ever, balancing the demands of caring for the collections with using them. There is an ongoing debate in the museum world on the extent to which historical artefacts should be used or simply preserved as they are for study purposes only.

And how do you solve it? We assess each instrument on its own terms. If it comes to us in playable condition, it is likely we will maintain that. On the other hand, we don't restore unplayable instruments, as they can be most informative left as they are.

What's the worst moment of your university career? Interviews are never much fun.

Do you socialise with people at work? I sometimes eat lunch with RCM colleagues, and the CPH regularly goes out as a department.

Best excuse you've heard for bad behaviour: Part of my job is to anticipate and prevent possible bad behaviour from users of the collections.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? The public and musicians can be both the best and the worst; students can be challenging, for positive and negative reasons.

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