Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Continuing work during COVID-19

QVMAG Natural Sciences preserves a record of biodiversity.
Natural Sciences is responsible for three collections;
zoology, geology and botany. 

This is #4 in our series about the impact of COVID19 on Tasmanian museums and staff. QVMAG Senior Curator Natural Sciences, David Maynard shares his experiences. 

The City of Launceston has temporarily closed the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.  They are taking this step as a public health precaution in support of measures to contain COVID-19, especially for those in our community who are most vulnerable. QVMAG has moved all staff to working from home apart from staff involved in essential services.  

This situation has presented challenges but surprisingly many opportunities.  A large part of my normal day to day work was closely tied to the Museum's collections and facilities, and dealing with the community. COVID19 changed all of that. For the past four weeks I have been ‘working from home’ (l’ll return to this phrase later) as have my colleagues. This presents problems with the care and maintenance of the collections, access to physical resources, and personal interactions like face to face meetings. However, I am quite surprised at how productive my time at home has been. I have been able to focus on research and writing towards a number commitments due in the next few months. I really doubt that I would have met all of these commitments without this opportunity, or the depth of research or quality of writing would have been less. 

Technology is keeping me in contact with my colleagues; email, Microsoft Teams, text messaging, phone calls. We are all keeping fairly regular office hours, so contact is nearly always immediate. My managers know what I am doing and how I am progressing, and I know how my staff are faring. I am still able to answer public enquiries, and communicate with our volunteers, some of who are continuing with desktop work at home. So, other than social interactions, and access to the collections and facilities, it is really business as usual.

But, I want to return to the phrase ‘working from home’. This is not quite correct, well at least for me, and probably for many people. I think that the correct phrase is ‘at home, try to work’. This is particularly true in my household because my wife is also working at home, my daughter is attending school at home, and lastly and most relevantly, my special-needs son is home with us instead of attending school. I am constantly interrupted to meet his needs. Some days are more productive than others, and to try and stay productive I start my day at 7.30 am and go for as long as I can. Our house isn’t big, my “office” is the lounge room, and the interruptions are continuous, as is the noise. It’s hard to focus or maintain a train of thought for very long. But I persist! and have found one solution. It is ear muffs, and the primary reason for this need is not 2 ft behind me -Shaun the Sheep on repeat, day in day out, for my son’s amusement!

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation, The City of Launceston will continue to monitor advice and adapt accordingly.  QVMAG will be providing regular updates on our website and Facebook.

Stay safe everyone.


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