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.
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.
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.
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.
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.