In the last two weeks of summer term we had 8 fantastic work experience students with us in Years 10-12. The students were given a taste of the museum’s working life and wrote a bit about their experiences….
Two of our students, Matt and Emily, wanted to share their views as ‘newcomers’ to the museum:
We believe museums should encourage people of all ages to discover the life of people from the past, and how it has helped shaped today’s society. During our work experience we have seen numerous examples of how Manchester Museum impressively makes the stories of history accessible to visitors. On our first day, we ventured down into the dark stores beneath the museum and we were able to see only a glimpse of the millions of artefacts the galleries do not display. This opened our eyes to the vast collections that often the public are not aware exist, and how carefully organised each object is.
Conservation is one of the Museum’s main responsibilities. It ensures the artefacts we see can survive for many years. During our second day, we spoke to Irit Narkiss about how she devotes her time to ensure the beautiful objects that the Museum holds are able to stay in such perfect condition. For many visitors, her work goes unnoticed, and we, being past visitors to the Museum, were surprised to find out that this is such a vital part of the running of the Manchester Museum.
Not only does the Museum display artefacts, it also strives to educate visitors on the origins and history of the objects, and how they were used in historical times. For example, the Museum runs an extremely successful primary school education programme, as shown by the large numbers of school children filling the foyer as we arrive every day. These programmes, however, would not run without the dedication of the primary and secondary learning teams based in the museum. On our first day, we talked to Emily Robinson, the Secondary Science Programme co-ordinator, who explained her role in the organisation of one of the many education schemes that the museum offers. We also helped Emily brainstorm ideas for the renovation of the Life Lab, a well-loved programme for secondary and college students.
By far the most essential element of the Museum is its ability to inspire. Everyone who visits, works at or admires the Museum is inspired by the collections and is left in awe by the fascinating stories attached to the objects. We have also been inspired during our internship. After only experiencing a couple of days work here, we have already fallen in love with the welcoming environment at the Museum. We look forward to the remaining time we have here.
Our two students Gabriel and Alice were really inspired by their visits to the museum’s stores:
In our week of work experience in Manchester Museum, we were privileged to have an insight into the hidden stores of artefacts and minerals that normal visitors do not have the opportunity to view in wonder. Unbelievably, only 0.05% of the museum’s collection is actually seen by the visitors! The museum has an extensive range of living culture artefacts, many of them that were unfamiliar to us, for example the Fijian Throwing Club, which to our inexperienced eye “looked like a flower”. We were also impressed by the mass array of armaments, ranging from shark tooth swords to coconut hair armour. In the rabbit warren of secret stores under the museum were some precious minerals and fossils including the most highly prized of all – a centimetre sized diamond. However, the most fascinating object to us was undoubtedly the spider in preserved in Baltic Amber.
Manchester Museum is a vital part of the community. Much of the public use the museum in various ways, not only is it a popular destination for school children studying Egyptology, but much to our surprise, we were informed by Lindsay Loughtman (curatorial assistant in the Herbarium) that many artists also use the Museum’s plant preserves as artistic inspiration. The Museum is steeped in Manchester’s history, for instance, many plants have been donated by the Victorian collectors from Manchester such as Charles Bailey and Cosmo Melvill. In addition, many of the rock samples housed in the Museum are from local areas, even the stuffed deer in the lobby was originally from Belle Vue Zoo.
Due to the Museum’s unique position in our community, it is of paramount importance that the Museum is maintained for the future. This is why we have chosen to do our work experience at the Museum so that we can learn about the challenges it faces but also the benefits that it provides, and by understanding how the Museum operates, we have better knowledge to ensure that the Museum continues to thrive. We love working with the Museum and we hope to make the most of these experiences.