The museum outreach team recently played host to a work experience student, Eleanor, who supported a variety of tasks in the office. Eleanor was a brilliant student and a great help to us, she has written her thoughts on her time with the museum, which we have share below.
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed my work experience at Weston Museum. I worked a four day week due to training, and a four hour day, with an hour lunch break from 12 until 1. I began at 10, which was a refreshing change from the earlier start of an average school day, and finished as usual at 3. I arrived at 10 each day, and I was always greeted by a task to complete. On the first day, Lisa, volunteer outreach assistant, took me through Health and Safety Procedures and filled me in on the general system that the office operated. The room was bright with a rich collection of artefacts and materials, sorted into assorted handling boxes for schools and residential homes. It was a gratifying sight, and the colourful array of resources confirmed to me that my work experience placement was to be an enriching one! I then met my task manager Katherine, who I set straight to working alongside, sorting and editing the contents of a seaside handling box for KS1. This involved me ticking off included items, jotting down new additions, and helping make decisions about what we be most beneficial to the receivers. Afterward, I rewrote the contents list on line, taking note of replicas and originals. I worked on a variety of handling boxes, including the WW2 box, which I found fascinating. It was brimming with genuine memorabilia-medicines, ration books, clothing, knitting patterns-which intrigued me, and led to some wonderful photography, as the artefacts were rich in interest. The most interesting example for me was the Viking and Saxon box. I firstly sorted through the box as I did with the seaside kit, working with Katherine to ensure everything in the box was listed accurately. We edited the contents and its list, to satisfy our target audience, as for schools it was important that everything in the box was easily accessible and clear to check off for the teachers. I then typed up a fresh contents list that distinguished the Saxon items from the Viking with an S, or V.
My favourite activity that involved this box was photographing its contents. I was able to express my creativity by arranging the artefacts-beautiful, detailed replicas-in an aesthetic formation. These photos could be used in future leaflets to show the public what the museum has created. The box was full of delicate, history-rich replica pieces. For example, a bone horn, amethyst runes, a rabbit fur, and even an ancient board game! I varied the artefacts and experimented with combinations that brought to life the eras seamlessly. I loved being able to make history work for me and to present the pieces in a refreshing way!
Another project I worked on was The Reminiscence boxes. These are overseen by Jill, who takes them around to residential homes, in order to bring back memories in elderly citizens. The particular box I worked on was the sweetshop box. It was a wonderful collection of sweet wrappers, whose colourful exterior had the capability to inspire past memories of sugary smelling shops and walls worth of vivacious, assorted confectionery. A child’s dream resurrected in such a thoughtful collection-pictures, boxes, sweet shop scoops-that would be shown to those too elderly to return to a shop, really touched me. Many of the people experiencing this will have diabetes, dental issues, other impairments, that not only make life difficult for them, but prevent them for enjoying confectionery for themselves. This is why I so enjoyed being able to inspire new excitement, conversations, and forgotten memories, by giving my own touch to the box. I spent time researching retro advertisements and bright, appealing, sweet pictures. I enjoyed the complicated IT aspect this introduced, as I needed to filter my search to find copyright-free photos. This took time, to ensure the images I selected were legalised. I enjoyed using my skills of observation and taking real care to select only the images which were accessible. This greatly reduced the pool I could pick from. This meant I had to pick the remaining images that were the most vibrant and informative. I thoroughly enjoyed this task, and finished with a laminated sheet of reminiscent pictures which went into the box!
I got to experience a lot during my week with the museum. I was able to witness a real working day, cooperating with other staff to achieve tasks more effectively. I enjoyed the freedom it gave me, to get refreshments and take breaks, which actually made working far more relaxed and I felt more driven and focused when I returned to researching. I also learnt a lot about Weston-Super-Mare, when I selected historical town information for the seaside box. I found out a lot about Knightstone Island, and it was really satisfying to expand my knowledge as well as helping to improve others’!
I was very inquisitive during my work experience, and I asked a lot of questions, in order to fully understand the procedures and to help me learn more about the museum is run. Everyone there was incredibly friendly, always offering me refreshments, assistance, and they were always happy to answer any inquiries. Lisa, Katherine and Jill were especially friendly to me, welcoming me as one of the team, and always making me feel an equal, despite my lack of experience. However, all the members of staff on shift during the week were jovial, kind, and took an interest in me, asking me questions about my school, my strengths, what element of history I liked and so on, which was greatly appreciated.
I even got to see the Mayor’s Parlour, when Lisa and I went up to the Town Council building to collect a parcel, where she explained how the museum and council operated, incorporating several buildings and branches into one well-organised system. I really felt I came away from my work experience far wiser, not only concerning the museum, but the general way in which a work place operates, from mundane tasks I completed, such as laminating and sorting a communal basket of small, felt mural pieces into separate tubs, to photographing a variety of handling boxes with genuine artefacts that brought me an insight into my dream job on my very own working week.’
Here are a few of the lovely photographs that Eleanor took of some of the handling items: