The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship


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Terrific Trails Training Day

Over the past year I have been organising a programme of family trails at Lynn museum, King’s Lynn. The trails have been really popular with our October Half Term trail ‘Amazing Autumn’ getting over 180 visitors.

Amazing autumn trail

Amazing Autumn sticker trail

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Remembering World War One trail

As part of the Teaching Museum development programme which runs alongside our work I was asked to develop and deliver a day of training at Lynn Museum about making fun and engaging museum trails. I spent some time before the day pulling together all the ideas and thoughts which go into making engaging trails – not just another worksheet! From running a training day about ‘What do curators do?’ back in June I had a better idea about timings and knew activities are often more popular than just lecturing!

The trainees all made the journey over to King’s Lynn and warmed up with plenty of tea and coffee. We started off by all having a go at two very different trails used at Lynn Museum over the last year and thinking about what a visitor would get out of a trail. The first was an Amazing Autumn sticker trail and the second an object spotting trail titled Remembering World War one. Everyone had some great comments about the two trails and each person had brought an example trails from another museum to talk about and compare.

We discussed the learning principles which underpin trails and take them from a fun activity into an engaging learning experience. We talked about how a museum can encourage visitors to learn through being welcoming, providing accessible activities and rewarding achievement. The Every Child a Talker initiative and the Early Years Foundation Stage Principles of Learning  are good examples of the ideas the trails programme has been based on.

After looking through the trails I had produced for the summer holidays we talked about making activities relevant to your museum and which of the Lynn Museum trails had done this better than others. For the afternoon session I was keen for the trainees to have a go at putting what we had discussed into practice. We all enjoy some arts and crafts and I set everyone the challenge of picking a theme from the museum and designing a spotting, sticker or colouring trail to take families around the museum.

Group working on activity

Everyone hard at work coming up with ideas for trails

Seahenge trail

Lauren’s trail about Seahenge

 Everyone got into the activity and produced some great ideas which I would love to be able to use at the museum. Lauren put together a lovely sticker trail asking visitors to find the missing parts of Seahenge hidden around the gallery. Rachel did a very different trail encouraging visitors to find all the different objects in the museum relating to domestic life, answering questions as they go.

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Rachel’s trail about domestic items in the collection

I really enjoyed developing the session and was pleased that everyone had lots of questions during the day and enjoyed the activities. Delivering the session has been a great opportunity to try out some of the activities and discussion we hope to run as part of a SHARE Museums East training day about making museum trails which will be held at Ancient House Museum, Thetford on 1st December. Click HERE to find out more. 


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Don’t Forget Your Tape Measure: Planning a Temporary Exhibition

As a curatorial trainee based at two museums (Ancient House and Lynn Museum) I have been lucky enough to get involved with a range of temporary exhibitions. At the beginning of August King’s Lynn and the First World War opened at Lynn Museum, and Thetford and the Great War – Part One followed a week later, a busy time! Now in September we are looking forward to the opening of Thetford and the First World War – Part Two, part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project Thetford Remembers 1914-1918.

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Thetford Remembers 1914–1918 project logo

The opening dates of temporary exhibitions are set several years in advance during planning meetings. Once the opening date has been set there is no escaping it! Having such a long lead in time means exhibitions can be included in a range of marketing materials, and events can be organised around the themes.

Several months ago Ancient House Museum advertised that they were accepting public loans to potentially be included in an upcoming exhibition. Items needed to be linked to the First World War and preferably have a connection to Thetford or the local area. The museum received a great response with local people bringing in objects, documents, photographs and stories thick and fast.

We were clear from the start that the exhibition would focus on personal stories of local people during the war, and there experiences both at home and away. It was fascinating and at times very moving to go through the items on loan from the public, getting to know the objects and the stories they depicted. One such story which we hope to include in the exhibition is about Roland Boast, a young boy from Thetford who lied about his age and enlisted when only 16. Worried for his young son Roland’s father wrote a heartfelt letter to the recruitment officer saying ‘the boy is too young’ to fight. However, a determined Roland marched on to nearby Brandon and enlisted there. Unfortunately he was killed not long after reaching the frontline. We are very grateful to lenders for helping us to tell these powerful local stories.

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British War Medal and Victory Medal awarded to Roland Boast posthumously

As well as wonderful loans the exhibition will include many objects from our own museum collection. We spent time searching through our collections database (http://norfolkmuseumscollections.org) building up a list of objects. We also considered borrowing items from other museums, such as several images from the Imperial War Museum which depict Thetford born Florrie Clarke taking on her father’s role of town crier during the war (Click here to learn more).

With a growing list of objects of all shapes and sizes it was time to start planning out the main themes of the exhibition, and ultimately what would go where. Between a team of people we selected a range of themes which would help to tell the local stories we had come to know so well. As we have limited space in which to host temporary exhibitions it was important to start considering which items would fit where and how visitors would view them. Time to reach for the tape measure!

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A section from one of our plans for the exhibition space

We were fortunate to spend a whole day with colleagues Katie Jeffs from the display department, and Sarah Norcross-Robinson from the conservation team. We were able to look through all the objects to access them for any conservation cleaning or mounting needed to get them ready for display. Sarah helped us to decide which items were appropriate for display considering factors such as the light levels in the room which can damage very delicate papers and fabrics such as silk postcards.

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World War One uniform being packed to be taken for conservation and mounting

With Katie’s help every object was photographed and measured so she will be able to produce scale plans of the exhibition cases illustrating where all of the objects will go. Finally all the information we had gathered was compiled into the collections database MODES so that all of the large team involved with the exhibition can see the range of objects going on display.

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Photographing a World War One pincushion from the Lynn Museum collection

There is still much work to be done between now and the 12th November when the exhibition opens to the public. We will be working on designing interactives, writing text panels and producing powerful graphics. The museum’s Teenage History Club is even building a diorama of a trench scene to go inside the display cases.

I hope to write more about the exhibition Thetford and the Great War as work progresses, and have a look at the Ancient House Museum twitter and facebook to keep up to date with what is going on.


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From Artefacts to Zeppelins – Life as a Curatorial Trainee in West Norfolk

I am Emily and I am the Curatorial Trainee for the Western Region. I am based at Lynn Museum, King’s Lynn and Ancient House Museum, Thetford working on a wide range of curatorial

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Trying on a crinoline during a training session with the Costume & Textile department

I am enjoying working with volunteers including overseeing a team of Digital Collections Volunteers at Lynn Museum. We have welcomed a new member into the team and are flying through boxes of fascinating Henry Baines drawings, scanning and updating the collections database. We recently held a team meeting and everyone had ideas for how to recruit more volunteers for future projects, which is fantastic.

At Lynn Museum I am working on a programme of free trails for the school holidays. Over May half term we had a pirate treasure hunt which was really popular with children who particularly liked the chocolate coin prizes! We are already into the summer holidays and I am running a loyalty card to encourage visitors to come back each week and try out a different trail, as well as take home an exciting prize.

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Prizes for ‘Sail the Seven Seas’ trail at Lynn Museum

I studied archaeological science at Durham University and have enjoyed the opportunity to work with objects again. Earlier this year I worked with the conservation team to condition check items for loan to The Brilliant Burney Family exhibition at King’s Lynn Custom House over the summer. This was a great experience to learn about the considerations involved in moving and loaning items. I am also dealing with public enquiries which has helped me to get to know the museums collections, and demonstrated the ways in which the collections can be accessed by visitors.

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Piano and spinet loaned to The Brilliant Burney Family exhibition

At both Lynn Museum and Ancient House Museum we are gearing up for the opening of our World War One exhibitions to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. In Thetford I have been working with Skills for the Future Trainee Tabitha to develop an interactive activity exploring the life of one of Thetford’s young soldiers, Leonard Newton. This has been a great experience to work through the stages of developing an engaging, relevant and robust interactive which will hopefully add to visitors experience of the exhibition Thetford and the Great War – Part One.

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Suitcase interactive in progress for Thetford and the Great War-Part One

Over in King’s Lynn I have been working extensively with the Curator and Assistant Curator to develop the exhibition King’s Lynn and the First World War. We have worked through our collections selecting objects, writing text, and designing layouts to tell the story of how the First World War affected local people. I am particularly looking forward to the installation of a thirty foot long zeppelin model which will hang in the ceiling space above the exhibition. Two King’s Lynn civilians lost their lives during the zeppelin raid on 19th January 1915 and we wanted to explore this tragic story within the displays.

Alongside work I have been enjoying our development programme, particularly sessions about practical object care including cleaning, packaging and moving. I am thoroughly looking forward to the rest of our year as Teaching Museum trainees and the varied and exciting projects which come your way when working with curatorial staff.