This blog series gives you a chance to find out a little more about the people behind the desk at Wellcome Collection, the team of artists, academics, musicians, researchers, comedians and more. Among many other things, they invigilate galleries; write and provide tours and “busking” sessions; they work on exhibitions, events and special projects; and they offer information and guidance to our visitors every day. It’s all in a day’s work for our VEAs, so come and meet the team.
Anna Firbank introduces Nelly Ekström, one of our Visitor Experience Assistant (VEA) team members bringing the galleries and exhibitions to life.
Hi to Nelly! Nelly is from Sweden and adding to the growing landscape of backgrounds working at Wellcome Collection, her field of interest is Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage Management. Nelly’s previous jobs include being a technician at Waldemarsudde art museum in Sweden and an Educator at Skansen, Stockholm’s open air museum of Swedish history. Her interests extend widely beyond museums as well: you will find she is strong on antique mythology, painting, textile handicrafts and “everything Swedish except sports.”
In the galleries, you are likely to find Nelly surrounded by boxes of spices: nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. “I do a ‘busk’ [one of our interactive mini-tours] on the subject of spices and how they have been used in medicine and as protection against disease throughout history. The more times I do it the more I get into the subject. I research more and more things like folklore traditions, trading routes and old recipes; anything that relates to the history of spices.”
Currently Nelly’s working on a series of new blogs about medicine in Shakespearean dramas and researching ‘THIS IS A VOICE‘, Wellcome Collection’s latest exhibition. “I’m really looking forward to this. I’ve got a bit of a theatre background, so I’m thinking back on my own voice training where I was taught by the voice coach to speak in a Stockholm dialect instead of my own countryside dialect, because that’s how Swedish was spoken on stage. Most of us aren’t aware of how culturally coded our voices are and how much the differences in voices we hear can affect us.” She’s also hoping to develop a new busk exploring body language and postural effects on the voice.
We’ve had some really popular exhibitions in the last few months and apart from lots of human visitors, Nelly has also had some more unusual encounters. “A couple of times I’ve caught visitors who’ve managed to smuggle their pets into the galleries. It makes me feel like I’m in a cartoon. My eyes sweep over a crowd of people, something doesn’t look quite right…then it dawns on me that I’m staring at a dog’s face, not a human’s. It’s such a surreal feeling when you suddenly see a ginger cat sticking his head out to look at the artwork in Medicine Now, or the face of a very bored pug in a rucksack, queuing for a gallery.”
Note: whilst Nelly enjoys meeting smuggled animal visitors, she is required to ask them to leave unless they are assistance animals; Wellcome Collection is sadly a human–only venue.
Finally, where would we be most likely to find Nelly outside of Wellcome Collection? “Walking in parks listening to BBC radio drama.”
Check out Nelly’s blog series on medicine in Shakespearean dramas. Nelly will also be writing the next instalment of this series when she interviews Rob Bidder.
Anna is a Visitor Experience Assistant at Wellcome Collection.