Meet a Museum Blogger

Meet a Museum Blogger: David Mentiply

David Mentiply is a museum blogger based in London. His love of museums and desire to fundraise for a charity close to his heart, led him to organise the Museum Marathon. He has previously worked on a historic ship and volunteered for Britain’s oldest military museum.

David MentiplyDo you work in a museum? If not, where do you work? Tell us about your job.

I work for Which? – the Consumers’ Association in the UK. Which? is best known for its product testing, ‘best buy’ awards and campaign work. I work on the community side of things. This involves supporting and developing user-generated content and managing one of the Which? Twitter accounts.

What’s your educational background?

I studied history at the University of Sheffield (BA) and then went on to complete my Masters in International History at the same university. My research focused on the British Empire, decolonisation and post-colonialism. After university, I taught English as a Foreign Language in London for a year and a half.

What was your ‘sticky’ moment?

There hasn’t been one particular moment of clarity where I thought ‘This is why I love museums’. However, my holidays are usually geared around visiting as many museums as possible. My last two holidays (New York and Barcelona) involved lots of preparation to ensure I visited as many museums as possible. My next trip is to Stockholm. Having worked on Cutty Sark previously, I’m excited about seeing the Viking ship, Vasa!

What is the name of your blog? How long have you been blogging?

It’s called Museumlines and has been going for over two years now.

What do you blog about? Why?

The blog has undergone several incarnations already. It started off covering new technologies and how these might be used within the sector. It then ventured off into more of an opinion-based blog. The latest, and hopefully final, guise is a multi-authored ‘micro-review’ blog. The format encourages people to submit very short (roughly four or five tweets in length) reviews for museum or art exhibitions they have recently visited. Why the micro-review format? I find once I’ve waded through an entire exhibition review in a newspaper or online publication, that it can usually be boiled down to a couple of key points. I read reviews to gauge what the exhibition is roughly about and whether or not it is likely to strike a chord with me. No more, no less. So I thought the micro-review idea would save me, and any readers out there, a lot of time deciding where to visit!

I’ve previously published posts from a range of museum enthusiasts from places as far as Australia, Poland, Austria and the US. I’ve also had several exhibition reviews – mostly London-focused so far, as this is where I’m based. I hope to spread to a wider geographical area in future. I’d be fascinated to read about temporary exhibitions around the world that I’d never get the chance to see in person.

Have you ever regretted a blog post?

Not so much regretted, more learnt from. I created the blog two years ago as a complete museum novice. I left my comfortable teaching job to enter the world of museums (as a museum assistant) and was impatient to progress as fast as possible. I think I made the blog to announce my arrival and get noticed. I tried to do this with my ‘museum manifesto’. It was an all guns blazing diatribe against what I perceived to be the conservatism and reluctance of the museum world to embrace new technologies. It got a few mentions on twitter.

This only encouraged me. Before teaching, I’d worked in Westminster as an intern for an MP and minister. I also had a very short-lived career as a government whip’s assistant. So I’d come from a very cut-throat world where to get ahead you had to be loud.  I’d often spend more time ‘debating’ those supposedly on my side of the fence than the opposition. So the politeness and cooperation of the museum world took a little getting used to. I certainly wouldn’t write blog posts now just to get noticed or for five minutes of twitter fame!

What’s the last thing you bought at a museum gift shop?

Does the museum café count as a gift shop? I think it should! In which case, it would have been a coffee. I love museum cafés as they tend to be very charismatic.

What’s your most read blog post? Tell us about it.

By far the most popular post is about the Museum Marathon. Last September I had an idea to fundraise for Guide Dogs UK. I had been wanting to fundraise ever since my sister first got Samson, her guide dog. Running a 10k, climbing a mountain or holding a cake sale never appealed. Though these are all worthy ways of fundraising, I wanted to do something collaborative. This would hopefully get others on board and wanting to know more about Guide Dogs.

The power of twitter meant that by the day of the marathon, we had lots of people signed up and ready to walk, and talk, museums! 26 museums in one day over 16 miles. We raised over £1,300. I hope Museum Marathon II (scheduled for Berlin this time) will be a similar success!

Do you tweet? Why or why not?

Yes, @DavidMentiply. I usually follow discussions or click on links/hashtags and find something that inspires me to blog. It’s a great space to share ideas with your local network but also with professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world.

I used to tweet for the @FirepowerMuseum and loved how twitter enabled us to reach out to new audiences. Although it’s the oldest military museum in the UK, our interactions were not usually with military enthusiasts but with local schools, community groups or people living in one of the four corners of the world looking to research their family tree.

 Share one piece of advice for those interested in working in the museum field:

I strongly believe that it’s important to get a feel for front-of-house visitor services before embarking on a museum career. Without an experience of the front line, you’ll be forever detached from the impact any of your future decisions may have. It seems that many curators and senior staff don’t get to know what their museum looks or feels like at the weekend or even during school holidays. I really think this is a big disadvantage. If you work front-of-house, you know that resource requirements are very different at different times and dates. If this isn’t recognised by senior staff, then the front-of-house team suffer and as a direct result, so might the general visitor experience.

Thanks for participating in Meet a Museum Blogger, David!

In case you missed it, David blogs at Museumlines.

Do you have additional questions for David regarding his profile above? Feel free to start a conversation in the comments below or reach out to him directly on Twitter at @DavidMentiplyPlease use the #MuseumBlogger hashtag. TY!

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One thought on “Meet a Museum Blogger: David Mentiply

  1. Couldn’t agree more re: visitor services experience. I work in a museum with just two members of staff, so I have no choice but to work front of house as well as my work with marketing, membership, exhibitions and digital content. At first I felt a little embarrassed – after all, I have a Museum Studies MA but my mum thinks I’m a receptionist who spends all day knitting at the front desk – but now I see how valuable it is to have that first-hand experience with visitors. Not to mention I can take action on things far quicker – someone comments that the label on an object could be clearer? No problem, I can fix that right now – no need to pass on that feedback to someone further up the chain and wait for them to have the opportunity to amend it. I know it won’t always be like this in my museum career, and I’ll miss that visitor interaction when it’s gone, but it’s been a very valuable start to my museum life.

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