Visiting Bristol’s museums not only taught me a lot about the city, but also a lot about my own career. I found it interesting to note how my role as a museum visitor has shifted since starting this placement. I now go in and see what I can learn about how the sites are organised and how they attract audiences rather than focusing on the content alone. This new museum mindset makes it possible for me to learn how other heritage sites are managed and apply this knowledge back at the Research Collections.
Our day of heritage began with a tour of the L-Shed, the stores for the M-Shed museum. We were able to see how curators chose and prepared objects for exhibitions and how their collections are maintained behind the scenes. Having the stores as an accessible part of the museum tour enables a larger history of the city to be displayed and shows people the extent of the collection that the museum holds.
Once this had finished Sarah popped along to the Brunel Institute to hear the ‘conservation in action’ talks which she thought was a great way to introduce visitors to the collection. They discussed the conservation techniques involved with their postcard collection and the roles the curator, conservator and volunteers had in this process.
The SS Great Britain is a must see if you go to Bristol; it incorporates sights, sounds and smells to immerse visitors with the attraction. There are varying layers of interpretation meaning that audiences of all ages are able to participate and enjoy (even when it comes to dressing up!) This ship was not only interesting as a visitor but also as a young heritage professional who wants to determine which techniques help bring in audiences and what makes learning an enjoyable experience. The SS Great Britain have a huge focus on visitor interaction and enjoyment which is evident throughout their many areas.
Next on the agenda was a visit to At-Bristol which is a brilliant science experience, for all ages – even graduate trainees. Sarah, Etta and Lily got stuck in and ran in hamster wheels, jumped on the spot and tried on costumes (yet again). There were lots of science experiments to keep visitors occupied, making it another success as an interactive site. The trainees came away with wristbands that provided them access to photos of their time at the museum which made sure they left with a memento.
There was too much in Bristol to see in just one day, I hope to go back sometime soon and explore some more. Any excuse to visit a museum!
With notes and images by Sarah Ganderton