King’s alumna, Rosanna McNamara, talks about her role as Production Assistant on King’s Dear Diary exhibition

If you’ve seen King’s current Inigo Rooms exhibition Dear Diary, you’ll realise how much work and research went into its production. The Programming team at King’s manage the university’s flagship exhibition space and we managed to find a small amount of downtime to speak to Rosanna McNamara, King’s alumna and Programming Assistant, to find out about her role and why students should take the time to look around Dear Diary.

How did you end up working for King’s and what does being a Programming Assistant entail?

After finishing my MA at King’s in Christianity in the Arts, I faced the inevitable task of finding work. I had some gallery experience, having previously worked for The RYDER Projects, a contemporary gallery in East London, so when I saw an invigilator position on the King’s Talent Bank I applied. My first position was for the By Me William Shakespeare Exhibition, during this time I got to know the team, and ended up taking on extra shifts and becoming a supervisor. I then started helping out with office support and now I’m on a fixed term contract.

My current role is to support the Programming Team, which can mean a diverse array of tasks. For example for Dear Diary I have helped recruit gallery staff, organise the private view and even ordered some furniture. I’ve learnt you have to throw yourself into all the different elements of the job.

Why do you think diaries make an interesting topic for an exhibition?

Six months ago I don’t think I would have thought so, my idea of a diary was limited to a teenage one. Now I know more about the subject matter I’ve realised how the form of ‘life-writing’ or diary writing has changed. The Dear Diary exhibition explores the ‘digital descendants’ of the diary, and I’m addicted to my phone and social media so I’ve realised how connected I am to these newer manifestations of the diary form.

Has anything surprised you in terms of the content of Dear Diary, and what is your favourite part of the exhibition?

Yes! The most surprising element is probably Kenneth Williams’ ‘Bum Chart’ – which records his bowel movements after surgery. Although shocking and funny, it is also interesting in terms of ideas around privacy and self.

On a more personal level, I am really interested in post-human studies, so the ideas within the exhibition around prosthetic memory are really exciting. For example the exhibition asks questions about how now we seem to almost upload parts of our mind and memory to a machine.

Why should students come to Dear Diary?

Well, firstly, the exhibition is free, which is so great, and it is based at the Strand Campus – so easy for King’s students to get to: they can even pop down between lectures or during their lunch break.

In terms of the content, there is such a variety of objects and artworks on display. One of our gallery assistants, who is a King’s student herself, described the exhibition as ‘accessible’, as diaries are something that everyone can relate to, even if they don’t actually keep a diary themselves. Even if you don’t keep a written diary, you might well use social media and different apps which keep track of your life.

Thinking about my time as a King’s student, I almost see the content I produced during my course as a type of academic diary. The opinions I formed and the essays I wrote in an academic context are indicative of my life and, in a way, this work becomes like a type of diary or record of thoughts and interests.

Thinking back to secondary school as well, I remember we all had planners where we would have to write down when our homework was due and anything else we wanted to keep track of… It would be really interesting to find my old planner. Perhaps after students have seen Dear Diary they will feel inspired to share their own planners or diaries, that’s something I would love to see.

Dear Diary: A Celebration of Diaries and their Digital Descendants is on in the Inigo Rooms, King’s College London, Somerset House East Wing from 26 May – 7 July 2017, Weds–Sun, 11.00-17.30. Entry is free.

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