The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship


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Time To Pack Up My Desk

Happy December all! As the excitement for Christmas ramps up in the Castle for most, things are slowing down for us trainees. Come early January, our contracts will end and we will each go our separate ways. Hopefully, many of us will stay in the cultural sector but it is a slightly uncertain time for many museums.

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Feeding back to the group at our Costume & Textile training session.

Before we all become Scrooges (from my blog) I want to focus on the many positives of the year. Being a Norfolk Museums Service Trainee has been an incredible experience. It has opened many doors, windows and cat flaps- you name it, it has opened it. Despite not having a permanent job for next year, the difference of having this traineeship on my CV has been huge. The year has taught me much about how museums work generally, with training from museum professionals, and given me a better understanding of how a Learning team works. I started off the year not being the best public-speaker but as time has gone on I have learnt to control my nerves and developed my own style of delivery. Now, even though it is scary, I am happy to deliver talks to people and have mastered the use of ‘pauses.’

One of the best things that I will take away from this experience is that we were each valued members of our relevant teams with specific roles and responsibilities. This may seem small but having a huge amount of pride and ownership over a task makes all the difference to the outcome. In my case tasks like; children’s birthday party packages at Norwich Castle, developing an informal adult talk on Alfred Munnings and becoming a regular team-member of ‘Snapdragons’ have given me pride in my work. I think this is special about the Traineeships, with the support of our supervisors we have advanced actual, practical skills that are highly transferable.

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Working in costume at ‘How the Romans Cut the Mustard’

I am, however, one of the first to recognise that cultural jobs are in short supply. That is why programmes like the Teaching Museum Traineeships and special events are great ways of learning about the sector. One of my colleagues, the Volunteer Co-ordinator for Norwich Museums, enlisted my help in organising an event like this- titled ‘Routes into Museums’. The purpose of this day was to tell people about the different ways into museums outside of general volunteering.

Just before Halloween we started planning this event and each of the trainees was recruited to deliver a short session. We met in October as a group and Rachel talked us through the ideas she had for the day. Each of us had around a 20 minute slot to fill with; a short talk on our department and the various job roles, a short activity and answer any questions they may have had.

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Working at Time & Tide for their Easter pirate themed offer.

The event happened last weekend, on 13th December and each of us delivered fun, informal yet educational sessions. I was first up and talked about the role of the Learning Team in Norwich. For my activity I used an object pairing activity with both contemporary objects and replica objects from the handling collection. The idea behind the activity was to get the participants to think about the conclusions they had arrived at for the object pairings. This sort of activity would usually be used for formal schools sessions like our Anglo-Saxons and Vikings offer. So, comparatively for adults, it would seem like an easy task. As adults we are fully able to comprehend that if there is for example; an iron from the 20th century and a non-contemporary object with similar visual properties, the latter must be an iron too. This is a difficult concept for children to understand as they haven’t experienced as much as adults. We use object pairings to help children connect to non-familiar things through using familiar objects-like an iron. This then helps the children to learn about a given time period. My activity did challenge the participants, as it got them to think outside of what they know and use the objects’ physicality to interpret different pairing options.

Overall the day was a success- the people that came left feeling more informed about the work that museum professionals do and the wide variety of skills we have. It also helped to show them that despite museums being a competitive field, there are alternative ways of getting into it. For instance; customer services roles, project volunteering and working in building maintenance are all ways of showing an interest in museum working.

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Goodbye from Katie!

As for myself and the path I am going to take post-traineeship that takes some extra consideration. I do know that I want to be in museum education and that I enjoy working with early year’s children. Therefore, it is likely that my career path will divert for some years into more formal teaching with the idea of ending up in museums eventually.

Lastly,if you are applying for a traineeship next year- good luck and for those of you that are not, have a Merry Christmas.

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A Christmas card from our collections.


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A Passion for Fashion? The Goings on at a Costume and Textile Event Day

This week I am writing about my experiences with the special event day ‘Fashion and Passion: A Celebration of Costume and Textiles.’ The Costume and Textile department at NMS unfortunately does not have its own gallery. Therefore, examples of costume and textile have to fit in wherever possible and a day like ‘Fashion and Passion’ gives the department a chance to showcase the best of what they have. ‘Fashion and Passion’ was a day to celebrate the 25yr long relationship between Norfolk Museums Service and the Costume and Textile Association. Volunteers, staff and specialist groups were all there to tell Norwich about the fantastic work they do including Stitch Norwich, the Early Dance Group and Norfolk Lace Makers.Corset

Patricia Day, Adult Learning Officer and lead on the event, asked me to create a trail around the theme of C&T. I didn’t really have a clue where to start when I began working on this but I relished the challenge as I would develop a new skill. I began by walking round the galleries in the Castle and trying to think from a visitor’s perspective, which areas they may dwell in or what objects catch their eye.

Next I took these ideas back to Patricia, who then passed them onto the Costume & Textile department’s Curator, Ruth and Curatorial Assistant, Lisa. This dialogue between departments is essential as it helps accurate yet accessible information get out to the visitors and help them enjoy their day through tools- like a trail.

Boy making lace

I then met with Ruth and using a very hastily drawn out route we walked the route. Ruth is an absolute fountain of knowledge- she helped me to identify the things that would be a real draw to the public. For instance, did you know that there is a section in the Arts of Living gallery dedicated to Victorian mourning jewellery…made out of the hair of the deceased person? Or, did you know that the pine motif that we readily associate with Paisley prints is actually inspired by Indian shawls and that Norwich shawls were the first to use it in Britain? No? I didn’t know that either.

Armed with my new facts about textiles I went back to Patricia and together, we worked on making it accessible to both children and adults. I think my most favourite part of creating a trail is the part where I get to research new things and think of ways to make it fun for all. For this trail I really wanted there to be acharacter for the younger audiences to connect with, therefore I created Jackie Loomer- a play on the Jacquard Loom used for weaving. I also added thought bubbles throughout as a visual aid to help instigate conversations between adults and children doing the trail together. The trail was a success, with many families picking it up on the day and orientating their visit around that. I saw one family with two boys really getting into it and asking questions- that was nice to see. Click here to take a look at the trail and download it yourself.

Norwich shawlThe day itself was fantastic too! The atmosphere around the Castle was electric and every person I saw and spoke to was deeply engaged. It was clear that due to the nature of the event, specialists were coming out of the woodwork. I was also responsible for ‘live-tweeting’ on the day, meaning that I took photographs or saw things happening and put it straight onto social media. I used #CastleFashionDay so that people who wanted to get involved online, or at the Castle, could do just that. I mingled with visitors, stall holders and staff alike and I got to see some lovely moments- including this little boy who spent ages perfecting his lace caterpillar. I also took several photographs of the Early Dance Group who were performing period dances at set times during the day. Nice outfits, don’t you think?

Early Dance Group

It was a real treat to be involved and I enjoyed it very much.


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My week with Jesters, Kings, Queens and Potters.

Hello readers. For my turn this week I have chosen to write about the Castle’s annual Summer School for Looked After Children.

This was definitely something I hadn’t had experience of before so when our manager asked us trainees if we would like to get involved, I was straight in there. I have had a chance to build up relationships with children coming to the Castle’s monthly Museum Club but not been able to engage on a deeper level. Plus, being able to work with different community groups and age ranges would benefit our eventual job searches.

Summer School itself is organised like a normal school week in terms of timings except the children got to take part in arts activities on the theme of castles all week. As an added bonus each child recorded their art in a log that would count towards their Arts Award Discover level.

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Before Summer School started, Ruth Farnan (Informal Learning Officer and organiser of the school) gave the helpers (I and six others) some training. The first thing Ruth got us to do was to take a quiz on Looked After Children (LAC). That really put things into perspective. My nephew is 10yrs old and most of the children at Summer School were a similar age to him- the answers to the quiz made me question my relationship with my own nephew. So, before Summer School I made a promise with myself to give the children coming a week that they could look back on with fondness.

The first day was like any first day at school. The children got to know each other and the helpers too, we had a warm-up game and we all took it in turns to make name badges. After that, Ruth set out what was going to happen over the course of the week. However, the most important part of the first day for both us and the children was to work together to come up with a set of values. This really helped to ground the children and whenever there were times when they were not acting appropriately throughout the week, the values in turn helped the helpers get the children back on track. The children spent the rest of the day becoming familiar with the Castle; they had a tour of the Dungeons and the Keep before being introduced to medieval pottery, weapons and a communal art project.

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Arts-Award Books.

When they came back for the second day the effect that the first day had had on them was already visible. The loveliest part of the morning was that one child had made me a Loom band overnight and spent time drawing and colouring in a card for myself. That one token of friendship (or two if you’re being pedantic) made the whole school worth it for me.

Over the course of the next couple of days the children blossomed in the company of the helpers and other children similar in age. During lunch breaks they would gobble up their food so that they could go on a tour of a part of the Castle and for the actual eating part of lunch they would save you a seat next to them. The children got to take part in a huge medieval inspired communal art project (at which they all excelled), medieval dancing, a Jester workshop and medieval themed stop-motion animation as well as firing the pottery they had made on the first day. Turns out I’m not bad at hula-hooping but rubbish at the Diablo…

When Friday came and consequently the presentation to various people, the tension was palpable. The children had worked so hard and were very excitable for the whole day but as soon as we informed them that we were going into the auditorium to perform- a silence fell. Over the half an hour that the presentation took, they were as good as gold and each did their bit for the thing that they were most proud of. The most heart-warming part of the presentation was when one of the children asked Ruth if he could make an announcement on the microphone. To everyone’s joy, he asked for a volunteer from the audience to have a go with some of the Jester’s tools! The other children took his lead and within a few moments all of the people that had come to the show were up on their feet hula-hooping, juggling, Fun-wheeling and more. It was a pure delight.

It has been a wonderful experience to say that for five days at least we made an impact on their lives. Plus, each child filled in their Arts Award logs and will now gain a qualification just for taking part in the activities and having fun whilst doing it!

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Museum club Migration

I am really glad that I have taken part in Summer School and in turn been given the opportunity to do so. A little bit of stability, love and creativity can do the world of good for one’s soul so I really hope that those children can remember their time at Summer School well. It has been a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience. Hopefully, many of the children will come back to Museum Club and be a part of the Castle’s identity and engagement with youth groups.

Arts Award is an Arts Council England Initiative and if you would like to find out more information about it and/or becoming an Advisor click here. 

That is all for now (this blog was just a little longer than my first) and I’ll write again soon.


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A Girl From Bedfordshire’s Journey to the Museum World

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Helping out with the Norwich Lanes ‘Valentine’s Eve’ event as one of Jack Valentine’s helpers.

Hello all, I’m Katie and I am this year’s Events Trainee for Norwich Museums. My journey started when I was a little girl growing up near London, my Nanny would spend plenty of time with me (as the youngest grandchild) and take me to lots of London museums. Those are the experiences that I can recall and the ones that fill me with joy, so it came naturally to me to want to go to university.

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Rosette making as part of the Museum of Norwich’s ‘Come on You Yellows’ May half-term offer.

I have a background in Art History having graduated in 2012 with a BA from UEA but have had little success with museum-related jobs since then unfortunately. I volunteered for a time in a Zoology museum in Cambridge in Collections but that did not subsidise my bank account!

My main job history lies in hospitality and retail but there just wasn’t that ‘zing’ there for me. However, the skills I learnt in those previous roles have proven just as invaluable to getting this job as my degree was. Customer service is so important to successful museum working.

During summer of last year (2013) I was casually browsing online and I saw ‘Museum Trainee’ pop up on the SHARE East website. I went on the Open Day, chatted to a few people and went on my way home. I applied, I waited…and at last I received an email inviting me to an Assessment Day.

I attended and just threw myself into every challenge, even if it wasn’t something I was comfortable with. That was really the golden chance to impress. Six days later I received a phone call from Hazel…I had got the job! It happened to be my Mum’s 60th birthday too so it became a double celebration.

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Learning how to photograph people and objects at a training day with Sarah Stephens

As for the job, in the six months so far I have had a go at everything that has come my way. From organising the half-term offer with NCFC at one of our branch museums, to being part of digital arts exploration with a green screen, to developing talks and tours (both in and out of costume) it has been a varied experience. I particularly enjoyed developing my Alfred Munnings talk on Sunny June as it was entirely my own and I feel a sense of pride in that. I am now looking forward to working on national campaigns like Takeover Day and Big Draw for the last part of my traineeship as well as our Spooky City event at the Castle!

 That’s all for now and I’ll write again soon.