Hi, my name is Charlotte and I’m one of eight Teaching Museum Trainees spread across Norfolk Museum Service. Originally from Birmingham I have been working at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse since mid-January and feel exceptionally lucky to be working in the events team – I can confidently say that I have the best job in the world!
To first give you some background, the concept of the Teaching Museum Scheme is to try and give people of all ages and backgrounds a ‘stepping stone’ into employment within the museum industry. Anyone who’s ever tried to find a way into a museum career will know that the most common entry route is via a Museum Studies Masters course at university. Unfortunately though not everyone can undertake this route, so Norfolk Museum Service has piloted the first Teaching Museum Scheme which, rather than a formal qualification, provides training and on-the-job experience for the trainees taking part.
My dream career has always been focussed on work within the heritage sector, and this traineeship was such a wonderful opportunity which has proven to be engaging and very enjoyable, thus cementing my commitment to realising a museum career. In addition to this Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse is a wonderful place to work and there is always so much going on and plenty of opportunity to learn and take responsibility for various projects.
Now that the introduction is done I’d like to tell you a little more about my work at Gressenhall. I’ve been made extremely welcome by the other members of staff and volunteers and am currently working on three different projects, as well as getting stuck in with various activities and roles. The project which I am concentrating on at the moment is a campaign we are running called ‘Rediscover the Workhouse’.
In case you haven’t yet heard, we are hoping to redevelop our Workhouse displays to provide our visitors with some fresh and accurate stories using the inmate records from our Workhouse. The campaign which I am leading on is one which aims to attract local families to our site during April, in the hope that they will give us feedback on what they would like to see in the new displays. I’m very excited about this, and the advertising is almost ready to go, so watch this space for an update later on in the year, to see what kind of feedback we get!
I am also working on a project which will enable us to take birthday parties at the museum, providing options such as room hire, lunch and craft/decorating activities (as well as access to the farm, museum and adventure playground of course!) I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, and once the ‘Rediscover the Workhouse’ campaign is underway, I’ll be putting together booking sheets so that we can trial a few parties and gain some feedback.
Lastly I am also proud to say that I have been made an SMC or Social Media Champion. Although this sounds like quite a grand and distant title, my role is to try and connect with our visitors, and provide another way to access what we have to offer. It’s really important to us that we’re not seen as some ‘distant entity’ and can instead portray the museum as it really is.
There was a time when museum employees thought that visitors and the general public weren’t interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Now however it is understood that this element of museum life is very exciting, because it’s not something visitors see on planned visits, and can provide a deeper understanding than that which is gained whilst walking around the site.
In relation to this my entire day on Monday was spent gathering updates from the Gressenhall team, taking photographs of the site and planning further work on the ‘Make It Monday’ project I’m leading on. All of this was to get some great content which our followers will be interested to read on our social media pages.
I was lucky enough to catch Scott (our Skills for the Future Heritage Gardening Trainee) whilst he was working on the groundworks for the farmhouse garden, Poppy (our Skills for the Future Rural Collections Management Trainee) whilst she was working on painting the wall for the new ‘Norfolk’s Last Horseman’ exhibition and Lauren (Assistant Curator) and Dave (Museum Technician) who were putting up the last display panel for the ‘Letters From the Workhouse’ temporary exhibition which will be ready for our reopening on 9 March.
In writing this I realise that I mentioned ‘Make It Monday’ a little earlier but never explained what the project was. ‘Make It Monday’ posts will be put up on the website and our social media pages on every Monday of school holidays. The concept is based on the fact that many families compliment us on the Art Attack and craft activities we run when we’re open. We’re quite a creative bunch here at Gressenhall, and unfortunately there are some ideas which never make it into our activity sessions, either because they’re a bit trickier or they take a little too long. My idea was to take these craft activities and put them into an easy-to-follow instruction sheet, so that our visitors and social media followers can print them off and have a go at home. In this way we hope to go the extra mile to help families by giving them an extra option with an additional activity which runs throughout the holidays (even though we’d love you to come and see us every day!)
The pilot ‘Make It Monday’ activity was put on our website, Facebook page and Twitter on 17 February for half term. It shows you how to make a Kaleidoscope at home, and is in PDF format so can be easily downloaded and printed off (Click Here). I had great fun making the Kaleidoscope and I hope that we get lots of interest as there are plenty more activities to come! And if you’d like to see Make-It-Monday, or are interested in behind the scenes updates and gossip then please check out our Twitter or Facebook!
Apologies if this post has gone on a bit, I guess I’ve been a little busier than I first thought! Don’t forget to come and say hello on event days as I’ll be around somewhere!