Museums and Heritage Traineeships: What Next?

Aloha,

Em and Anton here, reporting on our visit to The British Museum, where we attended the Traineeships: What’s Next? conference, hosted by Georgia Mallin (Head of National Programmes at The British Museum).

As our year at Colchester + Ipswich Museums comes to an end, a fear that I think is shared by all of us and a question that lingers is….What’s Next? Therefore, attending this conference was a must! All of the guest speakers had been on British Museum traineeships previously, such as the ‘Future Curators’ and ‘Museum Pathways’ programmes. The panel included 6 past trainees, who have all gone on to achieve exciting posts within the museums and heritage sector. This was a positive boost for us, reinforcing the message that you can achieve exciting museum-related roles by doing a traineeship. All of the speakers talked openly about their journeys and what they’d achieved whilst in training, as well as giving helpful tips for job applications and interviews, which was a really great aspect to the day.

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I (Anton) found Georgina Ascroft’s (Community Archivist at Auckland Castle) advice on how to match up examples of your own training and experiences with job specifications really useful. I can definitely use this when writing future applications. It might seem simple and obvious to some but, although I know what I have learnt and put into practice during my traineeship, I still struggle to get that across in an application. Georgia’s advice on this will really help me in the future.

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Personally, I (Em) really enjoyed the talks by Josefine Frank and Harri McCold. Both of the speakers had taken part in traineeships at The British Museum and gone on to achieve amazing things. Josefine is now the Assistant Head of Learning at the Black Country Living Museum and Harri is Assistant Collections Manager: Care and Access at The British Museum. Josefine had been involved in many areas of museums that I am interested in, such as learning, community engagement and planning events for the wider community. It was great to hear about how she worked for a university on a zero hour contract, in order to gain more experience and funding for her projects, including schools sessions, community work and planning a community event (which attracted around 9,000 visitors!).

Harri on the other hand had been in various job roles before considering museums, one example being a make up artist! She applied for the traineeship without having a degree or Museum Studies qualification. During her speech told us about her placement at Keats House in Hampstead, London, during which she had taken part in various aspects of museum work including collections management, research, documentation and lots of training sessions. She felt that all of these experiences had enabled her to gain the post as Assistant Collections Manager afterwards. Harri’s story was really inspiring, as many of the skills she’d learnt and projects she’d worked on could be linked to our time with The Training Museum. We have received so much training and practical experience that will help us within museum spheres. It gave us so much faith that you can get to great places in the museum sector, without needing tons of academic achievements or a museums based degree behind you.

Other speakers on the day included Gabrielle Heffernan (Assistant Curator of Designated Collections at Hull Museums), Willemijn Van Noord (PhD Candidate in Art History at the University of Amsterdam) and  Emma Morris (Assistant Curator at The Museum of Farnham). Emma talked us through a typical day at her small, independent museum, which has 5 staff members (not counting their volunteers). In our opinions, she’s a curating, volunteer coordinating, budgeting, collections managing, event planning, public-serving museum superhero!

Hearing about the speakers’ journeys before the traineeships, the job changes they’d had, the different types of museums they’d worked for and what they had put in to gain their experience was inspiring. It helped me to understand that roles in museums don’t come easily, so by having the experience, training and skills we’ve gained from The Training Museum, we are in a better position than most. Furthermore, Josefine told us that she had applied for 20 jobs after her traineeship and didn’t receive any replies, which made me feel a lot better about my call-to-interview ratio at the moment!

In the afternoon, we got to participate in speed mentoring sessions, which was beneficial as we could speak one-to-one with the past trainees and other museum staff like Katy Swift (National Partnerships Co-ordinator at the British Museum) and David Sheldon (Head of Learning Programmes and Audiences at the British Museum) about their job roles, their journeys and what steps we need to take in order to gain further museum experience and ultimately a job after the traineeships! Josefine gave me some really good advice about how to become more involved in community engagement projects and where to look for learning/community engagement roles. She also commented on my work with Supplementary Schools and how to make case studies from my experiences, as well as those from school workshops and museum events, when writing job applications.

Anna Garnett (Assistant Project Curator: Amara West Ceramics at The British Museum) also gave me great advice about applying for curatorial roles in smaller museums, as many of them include learning/events elements, which I am interested in. She encouraged me to work on public speaking, engaging with a range of audiences and to create a long CV and portfolio, with case studies of projects we’ve done, to take to job interviews. She also advised me about using social media to create contacts and join networks, all of which will help develop my presence in the museum sector.

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As I sat in the conference room listening to the journeys each person has been on, I started feeling more driven and believing that the end of The Training Museum traineeship is not the end of my time in museums and heritage. The road may seem long and there will be many hurdles, but I can now see there are many paths I can take with or without a destination in sight. Yes, having a clear picture of where you would like to be is great, just don’t feel discouraged from taking a different direction. It’s not always about racing to the finish line, it’s about all of the experience you gain and lessons you learn along the way that will help to reach your goal.

Here’s to discovering what’s next! #whatnext

Ciao,

Em and Anton 🙂

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