Training Museum, Tea Talks and Taster Days

Bonjour, Em here!

Last week in Ipswich was a jam-packed one, full of presentations, the second round of ‘Tea Talks’ with Pacitti Company and the first in a series of taster sessions for prospective trainees.

On Tuesday 10 May, we welcomed members of the South and East Museums Federation (SEMFed) to Ipswich Museums. Will Heppa (Visitors Services and SEMFed member) organised and hosted a study day for the group, which included animal classifications and object handling with Molly Carter (Collections and Learning Curator), an overview of the exciting live interpretation project, ECHOES, with Liz Bowell (Duty Officer) and development plans for the World Cultures Gallery with Harjeet Kaur (Collections and Learning Curator). The day also included talks from senior management and a lovely lunch spread at Christchurch Mansion.

At 11am, it was the turn of Rachel MacFarlane (Project Development Officer) to deliver a presentation explaining what The Training Museum is, how it’s funded, the objectives and our partnership work. Joe, Anton and myself each spoke about our journeys to the traineeship, what our roles involve, the projects that we’ve been involved in and what the remainder of the year holds for us. Thankfully, the presentation went much better than I had expected it would. The setting was quite informal and the SEMFed members were genuinely interested in hearing about The Training Museum and the role that we play within the museums. To thank us for our involvement, we were all very kindly presented with honorary membership to the group, which we would like to thank them very much for. We’re all very excited to attend study days and trips with them!

Wednesday 11 May  marked the second round of Tea Talks in partnership with the arts organisation, Pacitti Company. The idea behind it is for members of the public to learn more about museum collections, the work that museum staff do and to hear about their experiences at Colchester + Ipswich Museums, through discussions and questions. The session started with Bill Seaman (Museums Manager) and Philip Wise (Heritage Manager) in conversation with Robert Pacitti (Artistic Director at Pacitti Company) about their job roles, museums as a hub for citizenship and heritage, as well as what museums will look like in the future.

tea talks
Photo of Tea Talk 2: used with kind permission of Pacitti Company.

Then we were up! Elisha Mason (Training Museum Trainee), Molly Carter (Collections and Learning Curator) and I were involved in the second part of the Tea Talk, discussing many different museum-related subjects. We were asked about our roles, how school groups engage with the collections, how to include more contemporary archaeology and objects in our museums, how museums will evolve in a contemporary world, whilst tackling controversial issues and even questions about colonialism! I think (hope) the talk went well. We all really enjoyed working in partnership with a local arts organisation, which is literally right on our door step! I have had lots of positive feedback from staff, acknowledging the way we all gave personal and insightful thoughts during the conversation and responded to some of the more challenging questions.

tea talks 2
Photo of Tea Talk 2: used with kind permission of Pacitti Company.

Finally, on Friday 13th May we held our first Training Museum taster session. These are for members of the public looking to learn more about the traineeships, ahead of the second intake of trainees for 2016/2017. The event took place at Christchurch Mansion, which I feel is an eye-opening place to hold it. I don’t think many people know that the Mansion is even part of Ipswich Museums!

Lib Fox (Museums Project Officer) opened the taster session by welcoming the group and then asking them the big money question – ‘What is a Museum?’ (!) This helped to break the ice and got them thinking about the main roles, qualities and requirements of a museum, which was a great starting point. All of the groups came up with things related to the definition written by the Museums Association, which is something that we were introduced to in our first week of training.

‘Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artifacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.’ (The Museums Association (MA), 1998).

The next part of the presentation explored job roles in museums and introduced the multi-skilled (multi-limbed!) museum worker of the future, before Rachel gave a tour of the Tudor Mansion.

After this, the attendees were split into smaller groups for an object activity. They were given a choice of objects (Lemon squeezer, Fossil trilobite, Rabbit Skull, Police helmet and World War 2 thermos) and had to place it in a display at one of the Ipswich Museum sites. This was an interesting activity as it meant thinking outside the box, making links across different collections and team-work. The groups came up with some really great ideas and thought about the objects relevance in different settings.

The final part of the day focused on The Training Museum traineeships. There were lots of questions about day-to-day activities, the requirements for application, projects we’ve been involved in, working hours and our experiences thus far. Talking to people about my journey and answering the FAQ’s hopefully got the group excited about the opportunity and gave them a better understanding, enough for them to apply!

The recruitment process for the new set of trainees is now open, but we still have more taster sessions happening on 20th, 21st and 25th May.

Catch you soon,

Em 🙂

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