Phil Rowley

Science Museum | London (Community-in-Residence)
Phil Rowley writes:
Phil has kindly agreed to share this edited version of his initial thoughts from an email he sent to Alison Hess at The Science Museum after the residency weekend:
I was a member of the 'Stoke group' who had the good fortune to be able to take part in the Science Museum residency last weekend.I suspect that I was probably the member of the group who was able to enjoy the weekend from the greatest number of different viewpoints :-
1) I'm a professional chemist who has worked in industry for approaching 40 years and any opportunity to visit the Science Museum is a treat never to be missed. This was particularly so in the case of the archive collection in Blythe House - the building itself is amazing and I'm sure that the whole group could have spent many times the available time discovering things in the four rooms we were able to see on Saturday.
2) Stoke-on-Trent has been the centre of the British pottery industry since the end of the 18th century and I've been a regular volunteer at Gladstone Pottery Museum for more than 30 years. Unlike our Potteries Museum, which has the world's largest collection of British ceramics, Gladstone concentrates on how these products were produced and I'm particularly interested in the equipment, materials and processes used. This has given me an understanding of the complexities of presenting museum collections to the public so that they get the most out of them.
3) I'm also leader of the Stoke south U3A local history group : while several group members carry out family research outside the group, most members have a special area of local history which they study and I'm able to offer help with data sources and the use of software to tie information and objects together to produce a coherent 'story'. I'm also one of the administrators of the 'Potteries of Stoke on Trent' Facebook group and a single photo or query posted will often lead to a chain of connections and relationships being revealed by the members. Unfortunately, Facebook is not a very good system for permanently storing such information for later use or distribution.
For all these reasons I think that this weekend was one of the most enjoyable I've had for years, with the possibility to discover unknown objects in your archives, meet new friends and discuss different ways of thinking about such objects and ways in which such discoveries could be made more accessible to the public.
I thank you very much for the ability to attend this event, for your generous hospitality and for the rare chance to think about things in new ways.
I'd like to take the opportunity of writing to also mention that I was asked for my opinion of the new communications gallery by a member of the museum staff carrying out a visitor survey yesterday afternoon. Being associated with a museum myself I have probably visited many more museums - including many on Germany - as a 'museum person' than the man in the street and I have to say that I was very impressed with this new exhibit. The range of objects on display was very wide from the tiny to the huge transmitter inductance coil in the centre. In particular the 2LO transmitter was a very worthy centre-piece and really shown off to best advantage!
Thanks again!