Career profile: Amoret Spooner, Collections Manager

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I work in the Life collections department, specifically focussing on entomology. My background as a veterinary nurse meant that I knew the basics of taxonomy, but I learnt about entomology on the job.

What are the main duties and responsibilities within your job?
I’m the Collections Manager for some of the insect orders here at the museum. My role requires dealing with loans and answering enquiries for researchers across the world who are interested in insects. Another part of my job is rehousing historic insect collections from non-pest proof storage into pest-proof storage, to ensure their preservation for the next hundred years, or (hopefully) forever. I also look after live collections here, the ones on the gallery and those used for outreach. 

What are the main skills you use in your role?
Good manual dexterity is important, due to the fragility of the specimens I work with. And because insects are very small, I need to be able to use a microscope effectively.
Being able to speak to the public is vital, as I need to be able to communicate the importance of insects and the reasons why we have collections across a range of people, from four year-olds up to OAPs.

How did your career path lead to this role?
I’ve always been interested in insects, always really loved them. My grandad got me into them when I was really small. However, my background is actually in veterinary nursing. I trained as a veterinary nurse for four years and realised it wasn’t quite for me, and then decided to start volunteering here in the collections about eight years ago. I volunteered for around two years, just under a thousand hours in total, until a job opportunity came up. I had an interview, didn’t get the job, but continued volunteering to learn and train more, until a year later another job opportunity came up, and I was lucky enough to be successful. That was a ten month position, and then from there it was rolling contracts, and then eventually I got made permanent a couple of years ago. I’ve been here six years or so now.

What would you recommend to people who are looking to get into this area of work?
Getting into museum work can be quite tricky, but volunteering has obviously worked really well for me, and I would definitely recommend it. Volunteers get the opportunity to move round different collections. It’s great if you’ve got a science background, or something that will help you, but I think getting your hand in, and making connections, is a good way to do it. Veterinary nursing was helpful for me because I knew the basics of taxonomy, but entomology is good because you can train on the job.

Are there any particular areas of development or topics of interest within the sector?
There’s a lot more outreach now than when I started, more opportunities to show and include the public in what goes on within the museum. There is more focus on research now too, not only from people contacting me about the collections, but also projects driven by funding opportunities.

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