To enhance their learning, trainees from later stages of the project published blog posts reflecting on their experiences.
It seems somewhat odd writing about the end of my traineeship, as I’m still here at the desk where I’ve sat over the past 15 months, continuing work on the same projects I’ve been chipping away at during this time. I’ve become very fond of my little corner at MAG and I’m pleased to say that I’ll be staying for the next few months.
During this time I will be working on three exciting new exhibitions, but at the moment I am mostly focused on This Green Earth: Bridget Macdonald and the landscape tradition of Claude Lorrain, Samuel Palmer and Peter Paul Rubens (Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum) 13th February — 25th June 2016) a loan-based exhibition with incredible artworks coming from Ashmolean Museum and Manchester Art Gallery. The show will explore the timeless yearning for elusive peace and tranquillity of rural life that underpins landscape art. I will also be making my first steps into curating medical and social history, working on A Happy Convalescence (Worcestershire County Museum at Hartlebury Castle, March 12th 2016 – late 2018), which will bring together years of research from historians involved in the Worcestershire World War 100 project to share the stories of the nurses and wounded soldiers at Hartlebury Castle during it’s time as a Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital.
Last week, on Wednesday 21st October, we marked the end of the final Worcestershire’s Treasures Skills for the Future project at an event at Worcester Guildhall. It was a great opportunity to celebrate everything that the scheme has achieved over the last four years and share to what it has meant to each of us. But it was also quite a sad moment, saying goodbye to ‘The Treasures’ who are leaving for exciting jobs further afield and marking the end of a project that has given so much us and to Worcestershire’s heritage industry.
I have had the most fantastic time over the last 15 months, the amount I have learned, achieved and developed as a person has been incredible. I cannot overstate how grateful I am to Heritage Lottery Fund and the Worcestershire’s Treasures team for the opportunity. I am, most of all, hugely grateful to Philippa and everyone at Museums Worcestershire for their support, knowledge, kindness and professionalism.
Because of the Skills for the Future project and the support of the Museums Worcestershire team, I have progressed from an editor and aspiring museums professional to a qualified, experienced and confident curator. On top of the pleasure of working in heritage, I am also very happy to be able to continue supporting the brilliantly resilient and ambitious Museums Worcestershire and continue working at Worcester Museum and Art Gallery, which has become like a second home to me.
As we near the end of our traineeship we are busy completing projects, thinking about all we have learnt on our placements, and applying for new jobs. My last few projects at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service are a hand over pack for my absent voter project, photographs for the Explore the Past leaflet I have designed and a project to catalogue and care for the Kinver archaeology Collection.
The Absent voters from 1918 are being transcribed by a loyal band of volunteers I recruited and trained. I have supported them as they completed the work and congratulated them as they finished one book and moved to the next. But they in turn have supported me as I wrote up the project for my PG cert assignment. Now the volunteers know what they are doing I just need to leave a pack for my colleagues who will take over supervising the project.
Meanwhile I have been running around trying to rope in photographers and models for some photographs to advertise the service. The staff and volunteers at WAAS, their children, and some students from the university as well as Tom from the Cathedral library, all kindly helped by posing for photographs, and I was lucky to find two very talented photographers to take the pictures. I have been researching and writing the leaflet for months, so it’s been lovely to get the last bit completed, and now it’s on the way to the printers.
And the archaeology project has given me a chance to learn more about the Heritage Environment Record, and to input items into it, while learning some more about archaeology. At the same time I have reinforced some of the skills I have previously learned in archival care and conservation, finally getting my head around how to make boxes to fit the archives.
It’s a little sad as each individual trainee departs on their new journey, but great for the project to revel in our success and I am really looking forward to my own new roles as I continue to apply all that I have learned here. I feel really lucky to have had this opportunity to work with so many experts at WAAS, and to be leaving the role to continue working within heritage.
We all knew from the start that the traineeships were fixed term contracts, but fifteen months seemed such a long time. That was now fourteen and a half months ago. The time has absolutely flown by – as it tends to do when one is having fun – and I sometimes wonder what I did with it all. The answer would be quite a lot!
With four exhibitions, a major collections decant, the setting up of a pop-up museum and the studying for a postgraduate certificate, this year has certainly been a busy one. Add to that the general day-to-day running of the library, the delivery of tours, answering enquiries and running a social media presence, and it soon becomes clear just how much I have achieved as part of this traineeship.
I have been able to learn new skills – in volunteer management, in palaeography, in digital image editing, cataloguing, preventative conservation and public speaking – while keeping my existing abilities in Latin and research skills nice and sharp.
Then there have been the discoveries I have made and the institutional knowledge about the collection that I have been able to add to – whether through finding (perhaps) the first evidence of Hops being grown in England or discovering that some of our books were once owned by important Elizabethan courtiers! It’s been great to share these findings with a wider audience through the library blog, and I’m currently training up some volunteers to keep it running after I’ve gone – do keep up with it here: https://worcestercathedrallibrary.wordpress.com/ !
I’m due to start my new job as a Project Research Assistant at Guildford Museum in early November. I’m very excited to be starting my new role, and have no doubt that my traineeship will have prepared me very well for it. I will, however, thoroughly miss the library and its collection. That’s not even to mention the staff here and the volunteers! To everyone involved in the traineeship – I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what has been the most fascinating and illuminating period of my life so far!
As Sarah mentioned in her post below, last month saw us hosting our ‘pop-up’ museum in Reindeer Court in the city. My role in the team covered marketing and PR. It’s probably worth saying now that when we began this project I had no formal training in either area, so my methods may not have been conventional, but I am pleased with the outcomes, and like the rest of the traineeship, the project was a great learning experience!
To begin, I put together a marketing strategy which was separated into online/external/print/shop. One of the things I did, following our group training session with a freelance PR consultant, was to write a number of press releases, and we gained coverage in Worcester News, the Worcester Observer, and on BBC Herefordshire & Worcestershire radio – a huge thank you to the two Kens who were involved in the project and took time out of their day to come and speak to journalists. I was particularly pleased as Helen, who delivered our training session, said we should aim for two pieces of coverage, so that was surpassed (just!) As nothing like this project had been done before, it was quite difficult to make predictions for both the amount of coverage and number of visitors we could expect.
I think if I were to take on a similar role again, I would probably do some more research into marketing and PR methods to begin with, I would give myself a longer lead-in time, and I would hopefully have more time to work on creating and sourcing content for our online platforms. That being said, I know we were all really pleased with the visitor numbers we had (c.250 over three and a half days), and many of those visitors had come to us intentionally, rather than just coming in after walking by, which I think demonstrates that the marketing was effective. It almost goes without saying, though, that the project was a group effort and so our collective work was what made it success, so well done to my fellow trainees, we did it!
This week is the culmination of our project as the My Worcester Pop-up Museum goes live in Reindeer Court. We are opening to the public from Thursday 20th, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd August 11am to 3pm, with an exhibition and FREE activities for all ages.
For several months now all the trainees have been working hard on the pop-up museum as part of the Worcester Festival. It’s been exciting, terrifying, enjoyable, nerve-racking and fascinating all at once. Such a project had not been tried by the previous tranches of trainees so we are breaking new ground while we learn new skills.
The exhibition highlights favourite treasures from each placement chosen by our volunteers and visitors. At Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and the University of Worcester Special Research Collections we don’t normally have artefacts on display so we took the opportunity to create an exhibition on level 2 of the Hive.
I visited a couple of other institutions to work out how to create this exhibition. I was welcomed by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where Katie Hall had kindly organised for staff to talk to me about planning, setting up, and marketing a large exhibition. I chatted to the conservator about looking after the artefacts on display and sat in on a planning meeting. Then I visited Droitwich Spa Heritage Centre where Becky Pye and her band of volunteers let me sit in on a day’s worth of museum management while I marvelled at the temporary exhibition there.
Fired up with inspiration from both placements I created the exhibition now on level 2 of the Hive to showcase the Hanbury Hall Map Book (1732) chosen at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and a copy of Where the Wild Things Are from the University of Worcester Special Research Collections. This mini exhibition can be viewed until the end of August.
It has been brilliant to work together as a team with all the other trainees on this project. Now all the hard work is done, and we can enjoy welcoming customers to our pop-up museum in Reindeer Court: Thursday 20th to Saturday 22nd August, 11am to 3pm. Why not pop in and check it out for yourself?
The trainees had a lovely day in Ironbridge. We visited a couple of the museums to see how they run and what exhibits they have on display. But this was also a chance to meet professionals to discuss their careers and our own aspirations, with an emphasis on engagement.
Tamsin Bapty (nee Rowe) was in the first tranche of Worcester’s Skills for the Future Trainees and is now the Curatorial Officer for Collections Development working in the Museum’s Library & Archives where she keeps busy meeting celebrities. Tamsin met us for a coffee and a chat about life after a traineeship. Going out into the real world and getting a job is something we are all thinking about now our assignments are complete. Tamsin is clearly enjoying her new role and is doing well, so it was lovely to get a positive perspective on our prospects. She kindly gave us a tour of the blast furnace which is one of the reasons the Ironbridge Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Then importantly for our learning experience we all had a go at candle-making,while Hugh Simmons talked to us about education at Blists Hill. We discussed some of the ideas that have worked, how he comes up with ideas, and how these are adapted for summer holiday activities. This includes candle making, soap making and typesetting and printing workshops.
And last but not least we met Laura Simcox, who is a recent graduate from another cultural apprentice scheme. Laura is the Special Events and Corporate Hospitality Assistant at Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, and runs events at Blists Hill. Meanwhile she is also working in her own time on a masters course and kindly talked us through her role at Blists Hill as well as discussing her course at Leicester.
It was a great day and we all came away feeling inspired for our future careers and ready to start filling in lots of job applications.
It’s been nearly two months since the artworks for Stanhope Forbes’ England went back to their owners and one year since we began the Skills for the Future traineeships, so I have been reflecting on all that I have learned.
As part of evaluating the exhibition, I hosted a swap shop, introducing the trainees to the principles of front-end, formative and summative evaluation before we spent a few hours observing visitors to Stanhope Forbes’ England. From these observations and evaluating visitor numbers and the comments book we now know that:
- There were around 19,000 visitors to the building during the duration of the exhibition
- 81% of visitors came specifically for the Forbes exhibition
- 51% of visitors came from outside the WR postcodes
We also received some inspiring comments in the visitor book, including:
“Thank you for bringing this exhibition to Worcester”
“Excellent exhibition. Inspires me to find out more.”
“Chadding in Mounts Bay – one of the great paintings of the 20th century. A fine exhibition well worth the drive from Newlyn to Worcester!”
A particularly lovely moment in evaluating the exhibition came when one of the trainees observed two couples who came separately and did not know each other, but began to talk about the exhibition and then continued around the museum together. These types of comments and observations make me feel so proud of everything that Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum achieves and highlights what exhibitions can bring to the local community.
Evaluating my learning while working on Stanhope Forbes’ England has also filled me with pride, in both my own achievements and in the people I work with. I was offered a rare combination of freedom and support from the team here at MAG, which I believe significantly fast-tracked my learning. Curating Stanhope Forbes’ England offered me an in-depth understanding of the complex processes behind loans based exhibitions including project management; securing Government Indemnity insurance; arranging transportation and packaging; managing environmental conditions; planning an exhibition hang; writing interpretation, marketing materials and a companion publication; as well as giving public talks and tours.
I am aware what an incredible privilege this is at such an early stage in my career and the benefits I have gained do not only lie in this widened skills set, but have also had tangible results as I have been offered ongoing curatorial work at Museums Worcestershire. I have also been awarded a position on the British Arts Network’s Early Career Curators Group (supported by Arts Council England and Tate) for the next two years which includes a professional development bursary. I hope to use these opportunities to continue bringing great exhibitions to Worcester and to continue developing as a heritage professional.