The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship

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Development and developments.

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Lawrence, Collections Management Trainee at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. 

The early part of 2016 has brought into sharp focus the amount of work required to ensure Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse opens on schedule this year, with its Heritage Lottery Funded redisplay ‘Voices from the Workhouse’. The sheer variety of what I have been up to has made this a very exciting, busy and valuable period of my traineeship in Norfolk Museums Service.


Norwich Castle’s ‘A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons’ exhibition met with trainee approval.

One element of the re-display is to have digital resources in various rooms. One of these resources will show all 22 Union workhouses in Norfolk. It is proving to be a very enjoyable process researching each workhouse and finding historic and contemporary photographs of every building from a variety of physical and online archives. Inevitably not all workhouses have images which means a trip around the county will be completed to capture images of these often re-purposed or derelict buildings- a pretty great way to spend time in Norfolk! In addition, I was able to create the design for this aspect of the project and I am keenly looking forward to its completion and installation in the finished displays.

A lot of my time the last year has been spent digitising our own archived images for display in the museum. Whilst most of what we require has been found across the Norfolk Museums Service, more recently a few images have required some looking further afield. Organising and ordering images from the likes of the British Library and the National Portrait Gallery has been a valuable experience. I’ve gained an insight into how national institutions work and how their digital archives are managed but also how image licensing and copyright considerations are dealt with. I certainly didn’t expect this sort of work back when I started in April 2015 but have relished it all the same.


Sneak peak of an image sourced from the British Library for our displays.

Another unexpected aspect of my time here at Gressenhall was being given the lead on writing the text and producing the graphic style for our Engineering Gallery which contains many steam and petrol powered engines. It’s fair to say this wasn’t a topic I had much knowledge about previously! I thoroughly enjoyed this task. Experiencing the process of numerous edits, taking on board comments and suggestions from colleagues, will be of huge value in future roles.


One example of the diverse range of objects I have encountered this year. An Amanco ‘Hired Man’ portable engine.

I have not only been ‘in office’ this past year. In early February I had the privilege of researching and delivering a talk about the history of Gressenhall and the ‘Voices’ project at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. A little pre-talk apprehension aside, this was a very rewarding outreach experience and I certainly feel that I have gained a useful skill for the future.

The almost weekly training days have continued and have allowed my fellow trainees and me to visit and explore numerous wonderful museums, engage with great objects and learn a great deal of invaluable skills. Recent highlights for me include finding out more about the Archaeology and Display department and learning there is much more to plastics than I thought. With only a few training sessions ahead of me I believe I will miss these development opportunities, though it is fair to say I’ve definitely made the most of them!


 Object identification in action at Lynn Museum.        

As ever Gressenhall has been a lovely place to work over the last few months. It has been a source of personal satisfaction that I have been able to work in a historic building in the countryside of a county I have come to call home over the years. For an idea of the joy it has been to work here I thought I would end this post with an image I took back in January.


          Gressenhall’s café in mid-winter.


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Progress at Gressenhall…

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Sue, Project management trainee at Gressenhall

In the project management office we are working hard to get everything in place for the new year, when our new exhibition will begin to be installed.

I have been sourcing replicas for the new displays and have recently taken delivery of these lovely handmade wooden plates, which are a copy of our workhouse original.



I have also been trying to locate an old wheelbarrow,  a stoke pottery plate, an undertakers measuring stick and a Victorian prosthetic leg. Good job I enjoy a challenge!


Meanwhile, our training continues to take us to hidden places. Recently we visited the undercroft at the Museum of Norwich – a beautiful space.

It was a big day for my colleague Lawrence yesterday, as he got to drive a Big White Van. It is probably one of biggest challenges of his traineeship so far!

He needed a 4m long vehicle to transport an old map from storage at the archive center to a photographer in order for it to be photographed for reproduction for our new ‘Voices’ project.


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Voice from a Workhouse

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Lawrence, trainee within the Collections Team at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

I shall start by echoing my fellow trainees sentiments in stating that these past few months in my role as the collections management trainee have been exciting, stimulating, educational and above all rewarding. It’s difficult to express how quickly it feels time is disappearing as I try to take in more and more information and develop my skills in the museum sector. To that end I shall continue by giving a brief glimpse into my working world at Gressenhall.

One of the first tasks I was involved in was moving this workhouse coffin to conservation.

My major task since starting here towards the end of April has been to find and digitise archived photographs charting the history of Gressenhall for the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Voices from the Workhouse’ project. This process has been hugely rewarding for me as I have found out so much about the Workhouse’s history, including things I would never have expected (Christmas dinner for inmates every year bar one), but also it was a great introduction to the collections here.

Staff from the workhouse in the 1920s

Now that the digitisation is largely finished I have recently been focussing on auditing both the Collections Gallery and Engineering Gallery, both of which are second phase stages of the Voices project. Auditing these galleries has allowed me to get more hands on with a diverse collection of objects, get to grips with the cataloguing system and put to work some of the skills I have attained from our weekly training sessions.

The largest item to be digitised by far is this map of the Mitford and Launditch hundred.

The training sessions have been a real highlight of the traineeship so far, I’ve learnt practical new skills which will be useful not only this year but also in my future career, they have given a taste of many different aspects of the museum and wider heritage world and have opened my eyes to just what it takes to be a successful museum service in an ever changing cultural climate.

Change is very much apparent at Gressenhall, it is currently quite empty which is a rare chance to see the fabric of the building, but more and more artefacts are making their way in ready for the ‘Voices’ opening next March. To that end we’ll be testing aspects of the project this summer so if you fancy a sneak peak, there aren’t many places more enjoyable to spend a sunny day. Don’t forget to wish our old mannequins goodbye when you next visit. See you at Gressenhall soon.

My very best attempt at being a mannequin.