Work experience


Kitty Mcmurdo SchadBy Kitty Mcmurdo-Schad, work experience student with the Department of World Cultures

Arriving at the National Museums Scotland staff entrance was a daunting experience. Turning up at the door at ten o’clock exactly with my packed lunch in my bag and my itinerary in my hand, I walked in and got my visitor’s pass ready for the day ahead. Soon after arriving I was shown into the office by Sarah Worden and introduced to everyone in the World Cultures department. I was shown my desk and given the museum newsletter to read for future reference. I was then set to type up a pamphlet for the recent Livingstone exhibition and my work experience began.

One of my favourite parts of my time here was going down to the National Museums Collection Centre at Granton, where I got to see lots of items that are not on display. It was really cool going down there and observing the wide variety of objects the museum has and learning about their history. My time there was also made even more enjoyable by the great people who work there, who were happy to talk to me and show me what they were working on, despite their busy schedules.

Conservation work in the National Museums Collections Centre

Conservation work in the National Museums Collections Centre.

I also liked going to staff meetings as it meant I got a good insight into how a workplace functions and what is involved in bringing together such a large body of people to function in a correlating and amicable way.

It was a great experience and I am very grateful to everyone who made it possible to give up their time and let me tag along with them and look in on what they were doing. Everyone was very friendly and I really feel like I have learnt a lot, both history and work wise. I’m very sad that my week here went so fast but who knows, I may be back in the not so distant future!

Kitty with Dr Sarah Worden, Curator of African Collections

Kitty with Dr Sarah Worden, Curator of African Collections.

Lisa EarnshawBy Lisa Earnshaw, work experience student with the Development team

Monday

I arrived at the Bristo Port entrance of the Museum and was apprehensive about the week in front of me. I wanted my work experience at National Museums Scotland to help me discover more about the running of the Museum. I am contemplating studying history at university, so thought this might help me. It would incorporate not only my love of history but also that of working with other people whilst experiencing office life for the first time.

I collected my visitor’s pass and met Charlotte, the Development Manager, who took me to the Development department. She instantly put me at ease; the other members of the team also made me feel at home. Following my introduction to the department I sat in on the weekly catch up meeting learning about each person’s roles and the projects they work on. Imogene demonstrated the basics of Raisers Edge, a fundraising database, and then we went to the Exhibitions and Design department, to discuss the design of bags for the upcoming Airshow.

After lunch Michael explained the Membership scheme, showing me how information is recorded, how you become a Member and the benefits offered. Charlotte then gave me an overview of the Patrons programme. I really enjoyed my first day at the Museum; it increased my enthusiasm in this field of work, greatly helped by the generosity and kindness of the Development team.

Tuesday

Today I carried out a task for Charlotte researching companies. I also composed a table expressing the information on the aims for the redevelopment. It was interesting to see the ideas behind the projects, and also the level of thought behind every area of the museum to benefit all who visit.

In the afternoon I accompanied Imogene to the galleries, where we took photographs of the Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition promotions. When we returned to the office Imogene told me about the Explorer magazine, which is sent to Museum supporters. I saw the stages of its development and the changes to the magazine over the years. I now have a deeper knowledge of the work that the Development team do to help the Museum run smoothly.

Mary, Queen of Scots. © Blairs Museum Trust.

Mary, Queen of Scots. © Blairs Museum Trust.

Wednesday

I met Charlotte this morning and attended the ‘All Staff meeting. This was really interesting as I received further insight into how the organisation works and further information on the Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition. There was a performance from the Chambers Street Singers; they were really good, singing songs such as ‘Walking on Sunshine’ and ‘You Raise Me Up’.

Later on Jo accompanied me to the Museum where I had a Taster Tour. The Grand Gallery still amazes me every time I enter it with its brightness and impressive features. I loved some of the new exhibits I hadn’t seen before. My favourite ones are the 6th Duke of Lennox’s suit of silk and silver tissue due to its delicacy, the intricacy of the cloak formed from the tiny honeycreeper bird’s feathers, the coffin of the Qurna Queen – especially the replica of what they think she looked like – and the Millennium Clock still amazes me with its many mechanisms, each symbolising a different aspect of the previous century.

Doublet and trunk hose of silk and silver tissue, worn by the 6th Duke of Lennox: English, c. 1665

Doublet and trunk hose of silk and silver tissue, worn by the 6th Duke of Lennox: English, c. 1665.

Thursday

Today curator Elaine Edwards took Caitlin, another work experience student, and me to the Arctic Convoys exhibition in the National War Museum and told us all about the exhibition. The focus on personal stories and what it was like to live through the experience really brought the exhibition to life. I liked the quotes on the walls and the audio from the veterans. Elaine described what it’s like to plan an exhibition, and the issues she faced when creating the Arctic Convoys exhibition. When we finished going round the exhibition we looked at the rest of the War Museum: it showed all the different periods in which the Scottish army fought and was very interesting. We timed it perfectly so that as we left there was a marching pipe band playing. We stood and watched, marvelling at the tourist reactions.

Photo of men on iced up deck, from the Arctic Convoys exhibition

Photo of men on iced up deck, from the Arctic Convoys exhibition.

Friday

I can’t believe today is my last day of work experience. This week has gone so quickly. This morning I assisted Research Officer Debbie, and in the afternoon Charlotte got the team some frozen yogurt, which was a great end to the week. I have had a great time and learnt so much. It was an experience I will never forget.

Lilidh BerryBy Lilidh Berry, Scotland Creates volunteer and work experience student

I have just finished doing my work experience at the National Museum of Scotland and have found it very enjoyable and interesting. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first and when I received my timetable for the week it looked like I would be doing a range of different tasks, along with being involved as part of the Scotland Creates team, a group of young volunteers working on a two-year exhibition project.

I spent the first day being introduced to different people and understanding what Scotland Creates is all about. Once I had an understanding I could then start to give my own input on certain things and carry out activities relating to the project.

Next day we visited the National Museums Collection Centre at Granton. It had never occurred to me before that there so many objects stored away, and what you see displayed in the museum is just a fraction of the whole collection.

Store room in the National Museums Collection Centre

Store room in the National Museums Collection Centre.

On the Wednesday I visited the National Museum of Scotland in the morning to carry out some market research. I had to look out for what types of visitors were coming in and how many there were. I was also asked if any of the objects I saw around the Museum related to Scotland Creates, but I didn’t find any that fitted with the theme. That afternoon I was given images of the chosen objects for Scotland Creates and went out into the Museum to identify them. I then came back and picked the objects I liked best and had to think about how they link together.

The Grand Gallery in the National Museum of Scotland

The Grand Gallery in the National Museum of Scotland.

Thursday morning was eventful. Firstly I went down to the entrance hall and helped people sign up for Magic Carpet Minis and then went up and assisted one of the enablers deliver the session, which was good fun as it was aimed at 0-2 year olds so there was lots of singing! I then went is assist a schools’ Dinosaur workshop for Primary 2 age group. It was very interesting hearing what they were saying and I think they knew more about dinosaurs than I did!!

By Friday I was feeling tired so it was good to get out of the Museum again and go up to the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle. It was great seeing all the different weapons and uniforms.

The National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle

The National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.

Overall I had a great week packed with lots of different activities. I would recommend this work experience placement to any high school pupil as it has been very helpful to me and I had a great time. Thanks to Scotland Creates project officer Fiona for making it possible!

Carenza MurrayBy Carenza Murray, Work Experience Student with Collections Services

Hello everyone!

I’ve been the work experience placement at the wonderful National Museums Collections Centre in Granton for the last surprisingly short five days. For four days I’ve been based in the Collections Centre but on Tuesday I was in the National Museum of Scotland itself. If you – yes, you! – haven’t been yet, then you should go: the Museum is amazing in size and structure, and magnificent in its collection content, as, including the reserve collections, they have over four million objects and counting, in case you were wondering.

Monday

After arriving at the National Museums Collections Centre on a rather cold and dreary morning, what struck me at first was the very friendly and warm welcome from the staff at the Collections Centre. I thought it would be full of people who were going to be depressed and stocked up on way too much caffeine, but no, there was a surprisingly happy atmosphere for a Monday morning and some genuinely nice people too!

I was given the tour of the Collections Centre buildings (only five currently contain collections, as some of the older buildings are being demolished to make way for a shiny new storage building) and I was startled by the sheer size of the site. I’m not exaggerating when I write that it’s huge. When I first walked into Building 14 (the first building in the tour of the site), I was overwhelmed by the vast size of it; the buildings were all like the TARDIS.  I was quite unresponsive throughout the rest of the tour because I was speechless!

Specimens in the Collections Centre

From whale bones to frogs pickled in jars the Collections Centre has it all.

In the afternoon, I learned how to handle the artefacts with the care that they require. I found it amazing how close conservators get to objects. I was able to see these objects from a conservator’s point of view, so with that came an almost overwhelming sense of responsibility. After that I knew that my work experience week was never going to be ordinary.

A lesson in object handling

1, 2, 3 Lift! A lesson in object handling, and packing practising on an office chair,
before getting close to real objects.

Tuesday

Tuesday entailed a different venue to explore: the Museum itself on Chambers Street.

I was given a tour of this site: mind-blowing isn’t it? It’s hard to take in the actual age of some of the objects: when I was shown the Early People section of the Museum it was very difficult to think that the objects on display are over thousands, if not millions, of years old.

Tyrannosaurus rex cast and amethyst geode

From the terrific T-Rex to the amazing amethyst geode, the range of collections of the Museum are spectacular.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was taken to the Loans and Collections Development departments, where I learned how objects are loaned and transported to and from the Museum, such as the current Vikings! exhibition, which is mostly on loan from the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. I was also shown the ADLIB database, which contains information on most of the objects in the collection and their whereabouts. I found this very intriguing, especially the amount of work the system actually requires. You need to enter information about each component part of an object individually, for example, a teapot and its lid have separate object records.

Wednesday

Half way through the week, Wednesday involved looking at artefact conservation and paper and textile conservation back at Collections Centre HQ.

In the morning with the artefact conservators, I looked at how to conserve objects and the various different methods which can be used. It was incredible how varied their work can be. One day they’ll be working on some taxidermy, the next day they could be working on some objects made entirely of glass. It also struck me how precise you have to be in this work: a mistake could mean that an irreplaceable object is damaged beyond repair.

The afternoon entailed learning about the conservation of Paper and Textiles. The fragility of these objects is unbelievable, how they survived centuries of different owners and conditions is something I can’t understand. I made a padded hanger (which I think I made rather clumsily). These help to conserve clothing. They stop any acid within the wooden hangers from damaging the textile, and also support the costume seams. I was able to use my hanger on a piece of clothing, (after three attempts with different outfits) we found it fitted into a beautiful pink dress covered in small flowers which had a great level of detail and accuracy.

Packing a dress

Third time lucky; the padded hanger fits!

Thursday

Thursday’s tasks included some work in the Analytical Research labs and a look at the conservation of different works of Engineering.

I was very excited about Thursday morning as Analytical Research is in some ways similar to what I want to do when I’m older: forensic anthropology. It didn’t disappoint. With the Analytical Scientist, I looked at different ways to analyse objects to find out many different things. It was a great insight into the way we understand objects.

Engineering conservation was very interesting in the afternoon. I was shown around another section of storage in which there were contraptions of all kinds. It was great to see that many of the items in storage still actually function. Some of the objects come into the Collection Centre in pieces, and some of the time the engineers have to guess what they would have looked like, which requires a great deal of patience. They then rebuild the object, and to see the finished piece is amazing. It’s rare to get the chance to see behind the scenes at Granton, so keep an eye out for any opportunities that come up, like Doors Open Day last year.

Cars and carriages in the National Museums Collection Centre

Cars and carriages in the National Museums Collection Centre.

Friday

My fifth and final day at the National Museums Collections Centre included a look at ways that objects from the collections are photographed.

I saw the range of objects that photography has to work around and I can tell you now, it’s not a walk in the park! Glass particularly is difficult. The photographers have to work around so many different objects and take photographs with a great deal of care. They also have to work with many different camera angles, and work with a high level of accuracy. It was very intriguing, but I don’t have a very high level of patience so I found it quite trying to get the perfect angle for an object.

So that’s it for my round up of my week here at Granton. It was a great experience and an unmissable opportunity. It was good to work with such great people and I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to work here.

SealThanks for reading!

Hopefully, this blog gets your ‘seal’ of approval!

(What? Was that too cheesy for you?)

Beth PearsonBy Beth Pearson, work experience student from North Berwick High School

First days are always full of surprises, but luckily mine were all very pleasant! I am Beth Pearson, a 16 year old high school student from North Berwick, partaking in a week of work experience with the Museum’s Development team. I took the opportunity of coming to National Museums Scotland to gain a fuller understanding of museums’ internal workings as I am contemplating a career in art history.

Monday

On Monday, I arrived at the office after collecting my visitor’s pass with the very kind Jo and was relieved to be greeted by many smiling faces. At 10:30 I sat in on a Development Team weekly catch up meeting. This was a chance for me to see how each particular role connected with the rest of the department. After lunch, the Development Assistant, Ania, introduced me to the Membership admin processes and the steps she has to take in order to create a connection with a member of the public, and then to renew a Membership after 12 months.

After lunch, Charlotte, Development Manager, gave me an overview of the Patrons scheme. The fact that the Museum manages to maintain many ties with national and international Patrons interested me greatly. I left the office extremely pleased with how my first day went. This field of work has been made even more appealing to me due to the vibrant personalities that can be found in each department. It would be fair to say that Day 1 was a success!

An event for Patrons held at National Museum of Scotland

An event for Patrons held at National Museum of Scotland.

Tuesday

Today I arrived at the Dental Hospital Building with really sore feet, so Jo and I decided to reschedule the “taster tour” of the Museum for Friday. Instead I carried out a task set by Ania to envelope Members’ renewal requests. This took me quite a while, yet it taught me the range of things that have to be done in the Development department.

Then Judith, Development Manager, explained how the Museum develops relationship with the corporate sector as well as individuals. The benefits and venues that the Museum can make available to corporates seem really attractive.

Glenmorangie are one of the Museum's corporate sponsors

Glenmorangie are one of the Museum’s corporate sponsors.

Following a lovely sunny lunch break I started to write this blog post. Then at 14:45, Imogene, Development Officer, told me how she, along with other members of staff from other departments, send out the supporters’ magazine on time three times a year. After Day 2, I feel that I have been given a beneficial insight into the different layers of National Museums Scotland.

Wednesday

Wednesday looked initially quite simple on my printed timetable. However, I soon found the day to be brimming with activity. At 10:00 I was scheduled to meet Alice Blackwell, from the Scottish History and Archaeology Department. Alice’s official title is Glenmorangie Research Officer, and it was fascinating to see the work Alice does on the Glenmorangie sponsorship from the curatorial side. I was able to handle some precious artefacts from early medieval period and even before that.

Then Alice gave me a quick tour of the Early People gallery – one of the most interesting things that I saw there was the astonishing prehistoric butter that remarkably has survived through the ages!

Early People gallery

The Early People gallery at National Museum of Scotland.

For lunch, Judith, Imogene and I met Morag from Historic Scotland to discuss developing Membership schemes. As well as revealing the marvellous improvement that technology such as The Raiser’s Edge database has made to the Membership process, the meeting also allowed me to experience the new Brasserie in the lower floor of the museum, which is really nice and  should appeal to all ages.

Thursday

Task day! The morning started with photocopying many Membership forms, then sorting the ones on which people had signed up to pay through Gift Aid. It was great to see how many people have become interested in Membership recently.

At 11:00 I set out to complete Charlotte’s task. This involved searching for images of technology and European and world design pieces in the ADLiB: Collections Services databases. Apple’s first computer and a communications device used in the Gulf War were some of the most thought-provoking photos.

Original Apple 1 personal computer from 1976

Original Apple 1 personal computer from 1976.

Judith was next to set me a challenge and this time I researched potential sponsors; basically I did a lot of Googling! And that was day 4/5! The week was going by too quickly!

Friday

I arrived at the office on Friday reluctant to begin what would be the end to a brilliant week. After some tasks, I headed into the Museum itself to join a daily taster tour. I hadn’t set foot in the actual Museum since it was renovated and the lovely use of light and interactive pieces throughout the more central exhibitions had me enthralled.

Following lunch, I visited the Design and Exhibitions departments. I was in awe of the great multitasking skills of the Exhibitions Coordinators due to their incredible talent of being able to work on current exhibitions as well as ones way in the future!

In addition to meeting the exhibition team, I talked with Karen from the Design team. Since I am really into art and design, the opportunity to feel the different samples of paper that she prints onto and to flick through some successful examples of her work was a treat for me.

After this, I had the chance to see the Catherine the Great exhibition. The sheer wealth on display there was enough to render me lost for words. I also loved the many works of art present, as they projected Catherine’s authority in such a sophisticated way.

Catherine the Great exhibition

Catherine the Great exhibition at National Museum of Scotland.

However, the best part of the day was the tea and cake at 4pm! A hot cup of tea, accompanied by Judith’s commendable home-baking was a great end to a great week. Thank you so much for having me!

By Robbie McLellan, a student from Trinity Academy, Edinburgh during his work experience at National Museum of Flight

Day 1: I have been to visit the National Museum of Flight before and enjoyed all the exhibitions and the atmosphere, and also the new exhibits such as the Boeing 707.  I gradually met all the staff who were all cheerful, friendly and helpful and I familiarised myself with the site. Not only technical information on display but personal stories about how they relate to people who worked here.  A very enjoyable day.

Day 2: Started the day off by assisting a sizeable group of Primary 3 pupils from Livingston around the museum.  Firstly around Concorde before moving onto the interactive activities in the Fantastic Flight exhibition.  They then made paper aeroplanes in the Education Centre and had flying competitions in Hangar 1 with them. They most definitely left with smiles on their faces, as did I.

Boys piloting the R34 airship interactive in Fantastic Flight!

Boys piloting the R34 airship interactive in Fantastic Flight!

After lunch I helped in Hangar 4 in the shadow of Concorde on a not particularly busy day but the staff were still as great as yesterday and welcoming towards me.  Then afterwards I helped with the stock in the shop.  Once again, another interesting day.

Day 3: The day began with helping in the office putting together an Airshow mail shot. Then after lunch I met with members from the APSS (Air Preservation Society Scotland) who are currently working on building a 1½ Strutter which is a World War One bi-plane. They also showed me round the Radar Room which houses radars from the very first types from Lancasters bomber aircraft all the way up to 1990’s Buccaneer aircraft. Another great day.

Day 4: My day started by helping out in Concorde as there were three very large groups of visitors.  One school was from the Shetlands, another school from West Barns and also a group of students from Holland. The rest of my day was spent in the office making up Concorde Information packs. Yet another very good day.

Pilot's helmet

Pilot’s helmet in the collections store at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Day 5: Unfortunately my last day of this very enjoyable work experience. Today I was given a Behind the Scenes tour with the Curator, Ian Brown and saw engines, propellers, fabrics, materials, an iron cross and model collection – there are so many items not put on display.  The afternoon was spent wrapping up the week. Lastly I must say thanks to all the great staff that made my visit here at the National Museum of Flight  most enjoyable and pleasant.

A guest post by work experience student Catriona Murray, Dalkeith High School

  1. artefacts
  2. bugs!!!
  3. coffee, conversations, computers, chocolate
  4. department meetings, disposals, DATABASES
  5. early, like I was every morning!
  6. future job ideas
  7. good working environment
  8. HISTORY!
  9. inside view on how the museum works
  10. JOKES… lots of them!
  11. Knights… suit of armour in Granton stores
  12. loans, lighthouses, larva
  13. motorcars, moths, MILLIONS of objects
  14. NMS, NFA
  15. overall a good experience
  16. photography, ploughs
  17. questions
  18. restoring, reading, researching
  19. stores, spreadsheets, Starbucks… aah
  20. terminology… time to go home!
  21. ugly man costume… unusual
  22. very different from school
  23. work experience week
  24. X.FC 8  ( Hunterston brooch )
  25. yawn (on my way home from a day’s work)
  26. zoology (stuffed elephant)

To sum up my week I’ve had a fantastic experience and I have learnt so much over the small period of time I spent with Collections Management. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and lovely to work with. I have many favourite parts of the week but the bit I enjoyed the most has to be my day down at the National Collection Centre in Granton. I loved being able to see some of the artefacts in the stores and being able to take pictures of some of the objects. I appreciate all that National Museums Scotland has done for letting me take this work experience placement, thank you all so much!

Catriona comes face to face with a suit of armour in the National Museums Collection Centre

Catriona comes face to face with a suit of armour in the National Museums Collection Centre.

Admiring the cars at the National Museums Collection Centre

Admiring the cars at the National Museums Collection Centre.

Surrounded by bikes at the Collection Centre

Surrounded by bikes at the Collection Centre.

Helping out in the photography studio

Helping out in the photography studio.

You can find out more about work experience at National Museums Scotland here.