A Day in the Life – Sasha Smith



Who are you?

My name is Sasha Smith and I am the SEA in UCD Classical Museum.

How did you get here? What was the journey to UCD?

I did a BA in History of Art and Greek and Roman Civilisation here at UCD and then stayed on to do an MA in Classics.  After that, I completed a postgraduate diploma in Museum Studies with the University of Leicester.  As jobs in the heritage sector are scarce, I ended up working for several years in administration in the private sector where I built up lots of very useful skills.  I kept in touch with all things cultural though, by volunteering in various museums and then by working in the National Gallery which was great fun.  When the job in UCD Classical Museum came up, I jumped at it, and am so glad I did.

What is your role within UCD, and what are your main responsibilities?

I perform the role of an assistant curator so my work is very varied.  I man the museum on a day-to-day basis, monitor the climate for the artefacts, help plan events in the museum, design educational material for primary, secondary and tertiary level students, give tours to visitors, work on the inventory, manage our social media presence…. I put my hand to anything and everything.  

Could you briefly describe what a typical day looks like for you?

Every day is different and it depends on what is going on in the museum.  We get involved in a lot of events such as Culture Night, Heritage Week, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Festival of Inclusion, UCD Festival to name but a few.   We also put on a variety of events throughout the year such as evening talks, concerts and artwork shops.  These take a lot of organisation and planning.

During term time we get lots of primary and secondary schools coming in to visit.   I give them tours of the museum which are pitched at whatever level they are at in the curriculum.  There is quite a bit of diary management involved as we also host a lot of seminars in the museum for our own third level students from Classics and also other disciplines.   We encourage the students to use the museum and we have a nice little reference library down the back.

What are some of the most interesting or challenging tasks you encounter on a regular basis? Why are they unavoidable?

The most challenging aspect of the job is time management.  Because the museum is open to the public every day, I have to be prepared to lose huge junks of my working day when students or other visitors come in and want to talk about the collection.  It can be frustrating when there is a tight deadline looming but engaging with people is one of the great aspects of the job so I can’t complain…

Are there any specific projects or initiatives you or your unit are currently working on that you would like to share?

I recently met with Tina Lowe (Campus Accessibility Officer), about ways of making the museum more accessible.  She told me about Navilens which is a navigational app developed for people with visual impairment which is being rolled out on campus by Emily Smith (Assistive Technology Coordinator).  It is such a great project that I signed up immediately and I’m currently working with Emily on mapping the Museum onto Navilens.  I’m designing a Navilens self-guided tour of the museum which I’m really looking forward to getting up and running!

Is there a process or element of your work that you would improve or change? 

I would love to increase the opening hours of the museum but it is just so time consuming that it would really impact everything else I’m working on.  I strongly encourage people to make appointments to visit the museum outside opening hours though, if they can’t make the set times.  At least if I know when people are coming I can work around it.  The main message is that we are open for visitors and really want everyone to come see the museum!

Could you share a memorable experience you’ve had while working in your role?

I’m currently re-inventorying the whole collection which involves photographing and logging each individual artefact in the collection.  I recently came across a fragmentary Latin inscription that kept niggling something in the back of my mind.   I went over all my previous entries and found another fragment of an inscription which I had inventoried earlier that seemed similar.  When I placed the two fragments together it was obvious they made up a single whole inscription …. I was ridiculously excited by my Howard Carter moment!

Is there a particular skill or expertise that helps you in your role and what advice would you give to someone joining your unit?

It’s not a skill precisely but I genuinely love my job and as I am interested in every aspect of the job, nothing is burdensome or boring which makes attention to detail and diligence so much easier.  My advice would be to follow a career path that really engages you.

How do you collaborate with other teams or colleagues in your day-to-day work?

The museum is located in the heart of the School of Classics so everyone is close by, which makes collaboration so much easier.   My door is open practically all day so everyone will pop in to say hi at some stage.

Dr Jo Day is the museum curator and we are in constant touch about everything going on in the museum.

I also collaborate with my colleague Dr Bridget Martin a lot as she has developed a wonderful project called Access Classics which has done so much to encourage  Classics in schools, especially DEIS schools which wouldn’t traditionally offer the subject.  She has brought about numerous school trips to the museum and I have no doubt that many of these secondary level students will go on to study the subject at third level.

I’m currently really enjoying some Bloomsday collaboration with Evelyn Flanagan (Special Collections) and Josh Clark (James Joyce Library).

Are there any common misconceptions about your role?

Because the museum is only open for half days, some people may think that there isn’t much to do but honestly there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.

The museum is a bit like the famous UCD Swans…it looks very beautiful and serene when you visit, but it is powered by some very vigorous unseen paddling! When the door is closed, I am still beavering away behind it!

If your job had a theme song or soundtrack, what would it be [and why]?

“Simply the best, better than all the rest”…. Sung, of course, in honour of the museum itself.  It houses such a great collection of artefacts from the ancient Mediterranean world.  There is nowhere else like it on the island of Ireland – all that and it is free to visit right here on campus!


UCD Classical Museum – Find Us by Donna Carroll

You may also like...