The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship


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Tying Up Loose Ends  

Over the last few months I have been working on several projects including installing ‘The Life Room and the City: John Wonnacott and John Lessore’ temporary exhibition at the Castle, designing and making a working model of the Castle Keep.

W&L install 3

‘The Life Room and the City: John Wonnacott and John Lessore’ – Install

I have also created some life like reeds, a nest and bird pooh for the ‘Water Ways: Art and Nature on the Broads’ exhibition at Time and Tide Museum. The reeds were to decorate a reading area within the exhibition so needed to be robust enough to withstand being outside of a case but look natural enough to fit in with the rest of the exhibition. I used willow withies, paper pulp, wonder web and wire to make the reeds and some were used inside the case in particular one reed was used to mount an insect.

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‘Water Ways: Art and Nature on the Broads’ 

Throughout the traineeship I have also been developing plans and ideas for a re-display of the Fitch Room for which I created some mood boards which I hope to find time to evaluate with members of the public over the next few weeks.

blue finalgreen final

Sadly I won’t see this project happen whilst I’m still here but feel as though I have got it to a stage where it is ready to hand over and carry forward.

From the first day of the traineeship I knew it was going to be an amazing experience and without doubt I have been proven right.

What I couldn’t have predicted though is the volume of various and varied projects I have worked on throughout the year and the level of responsibility I have been given. The range and quality of skills I have gained and developed will be invaluable for my future career and the development programme has given me a really solid grounding and understanding of wider museum practise.

As this year comes to an end I do feel sad about leaving but also excited, armed and ready to venture out into the world of museums.

I am looking forward to new challenges as I move to Nottingham and develop plans to go back towards the North West, continuing to seek out opportunities and put my creativity to good use.


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Mammoth Measurements

The West Runton Mammoth’s sub-fossilised remains found on West Runton beach in 1990 (as previously mentioned in a blog entry by Orla) are mostly currently in storage.

With a view to getting the Mammoth on display David Waterhouse Curator of Natural History, Lynne Avery-Johnson Lead 3D Designer and I under took the rather large task of measuring each and every piece of the huge jigsaw puzzle of bones which make up the skeleton.

We methodically unpacked, measured and photographed each and every bone referring to a diagram and recording the measurements as we went along.

Mammoth fig.

Mammoth fig. From: Lister and Stuart, 2010. The West Runton mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) and its evolutionary significance. Quaternary International 228, 180–209pp

Measuring the different pieces was quite a challenge as not only are some bits broken and incomplete they are not a very regular or uniform shape.

Mammoth Measurements 1We used flat surfaces which we held against the ends of the pieces to make sure we didn’t damage the fossils with the tape measure and got a more accurate measurement.

Mammoth Measurements 2We took multiple measurements taking into account the way in which the bones connect with each other.

Using measurements of modern day elephants bones David will also be able to work out the dimensions of any missing pieces. Eventually allowing him to calculate the overall scale of the Mammoth’s skeleton giving us a better idea of how much space will be needed in order to display it.

Having done the measurements and some initial calculations we have discovered the Mammoth stands at well over 3 metres tall at shoulder height!

One idea is to look into having the skeleton digitally scanned and a full replica 3D printed which could potentially be displayed in the rotunda at Norwich Castle Museum. Once the Mammoth had been digitally scanned a range of possibilities would open up – perhaps even mini replicas 3D printed and sold in the gift shop?!


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Mini-Me: Designing and Installing a Mini Exhibition.

When I was first asked to get involved with the Mini-Me exhibition at Strangers Hall I was a little worried as not only do I know very little about dolls I also find them slightly creepy!

However once we (Katie Phillips and I) got started I realised the variety of dolls in the collection and the excellent craftsmanship involved makes them interesting and not as scary as I thought.

Once Katie and Cathy Terry (Senior Curator of Social History) had drawn up a short list of potential dolls to exhibit we went into the stores to locate them, check their condition, measure and photograph them.

Image 1b Measuring DollsImage 1a Measuring Dolls

Ending up with a list of 34 dolls which we wanted to include, we then made a few notes about any concerns we had about the dolls condition to check with the conservator.

Whilst all this was happening I started to think about a backdrop for the case. The exhibition was to be held in an existing case within the toy room of the museum and be open over the summer. So it needed to be something bright, fun and relevant to all the chosen dolls. After pondering over various ideas I settled on an illustration of the interior of a dolls house, which I drew up by hand, scanned in, scaled up and had printed on conservation approved Foamex board.

Image 2 Backdrop DesignAt this point we began to design the layout for each shelf which Katie had separated into themes. Using a table we measured out the size of a shelf with masking tape, finding appropriate mounts and arranging the selections of dolls (photographing each layout as we went along).

Image 3 Shelf LayoutBeing the design and technical trainee I mainly concentrated on the display of the case and the design of the backdrop whilst Katie did a lot of work researching, writing and promoting the exhibition.

When the time came to install the exhibition Katie and I were very well prepared only needing to make small adjustments as we worked. With a deep sense of relief the graphic backdrop I designed fit into the case perfectly, as did the labels for each shelf.

Throughout this traineeship I have learnt that even though you may not know about or think you have a particular interest in the objects you are asked to work with, you quickly become enthused and develop an interest. This makes every project exciting and a pleasure to be involved in.

All in all Mini-Me has been a great opportunity to work quite independently and produce something to be proud of.

Image 4 Finished Display


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Making Objects Shine – the work of a Design and Technical Trainee

Inspired By Birds modelObjects for me hold a special intrigue, opening up the imagination, drawing links with the past, vessels for stories, inspiring ideas, legacies, techniques, crafts – I could go on!

I am a trained artist and have a BA and MA in Fine Art with a particular focus on sculpture. I am passionate about making things with my own two hands. I love working with materials, textures, shapes and colours using display as a way to find connections and introduce narratives.Doll exh

Museum exhibits and displays have had a huge influence on my artwork. Throughout my career I have been fascinated by collecting, collections and collectors – cabinets of curiosity.  I have fabricated series’ of artifacts, designed and built display cabinets for them and shown them as fictional collections. I think the way that something is displayed is of great importance in engaging people, capturing the imagination and breathing life into objects.

chalice case mountMy creativity, practical making skills, keen eye for detail and boundless enthusiasm for objects and display make me ideally suited to working in the design and technical department of the museum service.

Working across the department has meant that the job so far has been exciting and varied with no two days the same. From rummaging through stores to find just the right Great Tit specimen for display, to making a scale model of the modern art gallery, to designing a mount for a rare leather chalice case, to getting a quote from a contractor to paint the Egyptian gallery, to building a miniature car park to display over 40 tiny model cars, to producing an exhibition of dolls, to finding space for a huge painting in a store. One minute I am a designer, another I’m a technician the next a co-ordinator. I’m exhausted but happy!

carparkNot only is this opportunity helping me build up a huge bank of skills and experience but also generate ideas for my artwork and possible projects in the future.

On a daily basis I get to handle and work with the kind of objects which have inspired me so much over the years. Allowing me to gather up and build on all of my past experiences to create new and interesting things.

As an artist it is all about showing my work making sure people can see what I have made. The challenge I have faced here is that my work should be invisible and everything I do is to make sure the objects shine.

Museum Selfie