Q&A with MAA’s Workshop Team

6 minute read

Behind-the-scenes at MAA an ingenious and creative team are essential to not only the day-to-day running of the Museum, but also to the creation of its amazing exhibitions. On 4th June 2024, I sat down with Matt Buckley and Francis Galarza Rubiano, the MAA’s Workshop team, to discover more about the work they do.

How would you describe the work carried out by the Workshop team at MAA?

MB: Well, it’s a mixture. There’s the exhibition work, the building maintenance side of things, and security that we deal with.

How did you both get onto this career path?

MB: I fell into it by accident! As a school leaver I went into an apprenticeship scheme at the Fitzwilliam and eventually ended up here.

FGR: Like Matt it was by accident. I was in Bogotá, Colombia at the Gold Museum. I went there to talk to them, and they proposed that I become part of the team to renovate the exhibition. So that’s the way it started.

What has been your favourite exhibition to work on?

MB: I was thinking about that… And I think it would be Another India. It was quite a challenging one, but it was really satisfying to finish it.

FGR: I’ve only done one exhibition at MAA! So, for me it was probably the whole Gold Museum exhibition because it was a special case with around 3,500 objects. It was special.

Last year the Workshop team was part of the installation of MAA’s current exhibition, Beneath Our Feet: Archaeology of the Cambridge Region. What did this involve?

MB: To begin with, we have to get the gallery set up for the decorators to come in. Then we build the cases up. Meanwhile, the case furniture, and the mounts are being made in the workshop, ready to go into the displays.

Figure 2. Workshop Technicians Francis Galarza Rubiano and Aran Lomas prepare the exhibition display cases. Image credit: Author.

Were there any challenges you faced?

MB: It was quite as straightforward exhibition this one, actually, of all of them. I think the only real challenge was hanging the bike [which belonged to archaeologist Cyril Fox and is on loan from the Museum of Cambridge for the exhibition] from the ceiling. That turned out to be fairly straightforward as well, but you never quite know.

What was your favourite object to work with in the exhibition?

FGR: All around the Trumpington Cross, with the bed and everything. I think it was because we were together sitting there with the bed and exhibition objects around the reconstruction of the burial. Proper teamwork.

Figure 1. Beneath Our Feet: Archaeology of the Cambridge Region exhibition. Image credit: Author.

Is there an element of the team’s work on the exhibition you are particularly proud of?

MB: I think again, the bed where the Trumpington Cross is. I think because we tried to replicate the way it would have been made but making it with acrylic where it would have been wood. We’ve used the same techniques, and we’ve dowelled it together as it would have been.

What does your ongoing involvement with the exhibition entail?

MB: Well, there’s a bit of maintenance to do. Some of the vinyl start to peel up a little bit so we go around periodically and just attend to that. We touch up the paint here and there where it’s got scuffed.

Can you tell us more about how the Workshop team are moving towards creating more sustainable exhibitions and displays?

MB: We try to reuse as much material as we can, like the metal from the mounts. Also, the MDF, which we make a lot the display case furniture out of. It’s very difficult because we’ve got nowhere to store anything. So, we try not to have to rebuild everything every time we do an exhibition with new material.

When the exhibition closes in September 2024 what will the Workshop team be doing?

MB: We’ll be preparing for the next exhibition! We’ll be the in the Workshop and hopefully we’ll have completed all the mounts by then. Then there’s case furniture to make and then once it’s decorated, we’ll move into the gallery and start setting the exhibition out.

Matt and Francis, thank you so much for talking with me about the vitally important work you do at the museum.

For more information on Beneath Our Feet: Archaeology of the Cambridge Region visit the exhibition’s web page. If you wish to see the exhibition for yourself, it is open at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology until 22nd September 2024. For help planning your visit check out the museum’s website.


  1. Katrina Dring says:

    Really lovely to get this little glimpse into what the workshop team get up to. I’m going to look out for the dowelled acrylic in the Trumpington burial case next time I’m in!

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