At the beginning of the week I did not know what to expect. Work experience at a museum was going to be an experience if nothing else. The first thing I was to learn is that I had greatly misjudged the size of the place and the complexity of finding your way about. And that, despite my childhood excuses about having seen everything in the museum, I indeed had not.
The first day consisted mainly of wandering about the building and being introduced to people. All in all, a good day and a positive start to the week.
Although the start of the second day was a bit earlier, I still managed to survive the morning’s presentation without bother. The rest of the morning was spent seeing even more of the museum that I still hadn’t seen and learning more about the schemes for learning and teaching, and talking to staff. At the end I got to see, hold (and wonder, perhaps) at some of the artefacts, including a whale baleen (surprisingly big), a square of elephant skin (ew!), and a small Chinese glass globe that had been intricately painted from the inside (!).
The third day I spent in and out of meetings (one of which included some stuffed onlookers…) and helping set up and partake in a jewellery craft workshop.
My second last day composed of visiting the National War Museum up at the castle in the morning to see one of the education programmes for schools. I myself hadn’t seen the programme since P7, so it was good to refresh my knowledge (and that wallpaper certainly brought back some memories). Before lunch I volunteered to help out with a gallery survey for the Shining Lights exhibition. This involved making a general statement about what behaviours the visitors were presenting, and if they were engaging with the objects and activities on show (which indeed a large majority did). This is just one of the things that I didn’t realise was involved in working at the museum, and it was good to experience the variety of work that is important to the clockwork function of such an organisation.
After lunch we set off to visit one of the museum’s many storage warehouses at the National Museums Collection Centre in Granton. I may have seen some of the items before but it certainly was a shock to see some of them there – the great Indian elephant, and the turtle that used to be in the entrance hall, for example. There is enough in one room to keep you interested for hours, never mind one whole warehouse! And it was fantastic to be able to see some of the items that have been in storage for many years and will probably never be removed from storage. In all I have to say I was thrilled to get the opportunity to visit the warehouses, despite some of the odder, slightly creepier objects (yes, you’ve guessed it, more stuffed animals)…
The last day was a bit slower but still showed some more of the behind-the-scenes work that you’d often not get to see. Again, I was helping with surveys and also reviewing a pilot for a self-led tour. And I’m proud to say I now know how to go about understanding public opinion without actually having to ask five sheets worth of questions!
At the end of this week I believe I have learnt a lot, and I hope to build upon this experience. It’s funny how this week has gone so quick and how many things there are going on in just one department of the big machine that makes up the National Museum.
You can find out more about work experience at National Museums Scotland here.