My Trainee Journey – A reflection of (almost) a year in museums

Hello again

The end is nigh for my, and my remaining colleagues’ traineeship. It is rather scary, as it only feels like last month we had our induction week.

I have been on leaps and bound these last 11 months. I’ve achieved things I never thought I would, and learned every step of the way. From documenting African collections and Munnings’ sketchbooks, to project management around Autism accessibility, and not to mention all those fun work trips and conferences like Moving on Up and Transformers.

What I am keen to write about is my perception of museums in general, before and at the end of my traineeship. Everyone who works in museums, always says “you will never visit/look at a museum/exhibit in the same way again!” and this is certainly true. For example, when visiting my brother in Glasgow, I went on a trip to the Riverside Museum and I actually enjoyed it more than the art museums I used to always see and love.

I could write a whole thesis on this, but I’ll stick to my main points. The reason I particularly enjoyed the Riverside is because I now have a better understanding of museums, rather than JUST the collections, as I did before the traineeship.

Museums are more than simply physical buildings of historic objects, as I have learned through The Training Museum and from everyone of my colleagues at Ipswich, regardless of their role or position.

They are the centre of a community. The objects and history are the core of a museum, this I have no doubt, but they do not define it. Rather they are a strong case for having a presence in the community.

Without going off on one, I want to conclude by saying: next time you are visiting a museum and you see a Tudor Cap dating 1504, or a master class painting from the 20 century, remember that there is so much more going on around those objects, and museums are, and always will be, striving to change lives.

Phew! A bit of an article, but I hope you get my drift.

Until next time


[I dedicate to this post to every colleague in the last 12 months who has made this traineeship a success.]


Autism Access Project

Hi everyone

Today I am going to write about something slightly different than what I have blogged about in the past. Today I am going to give you a glimpse of the Autism Access Project, a subject close to my heart.

This blog directly leads from the last one I wrote about Transformers, which is an on-going development programme based on diversity. Transformers has been highly informative for this project. I briefly talked about Early Bird Hour last time, which I will mention as we go on.

The Autism Accessibility Project is an initiative I am leading on in Ipswich Museum. When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and thus have years of life experience in the area. When the opportunity came to lead on this project, I almost jumped at the chance!  

So what is Autism? It would take too long to explain fully, but basically it is a neurological condition that affects the way an individual communicates, interacts and makes sense of the world. Here are some listed traits: 

  • Difficulties with communication and interaction, which often results in confusion around relationships.
  • Repetitive behaviours that might appear strange, but give comfort and keeps a balance of certainty in their life.
  • Sensory sensitivity. Over or under sensitive to touch, sound, taste.
  • Being a “spectrum” condition means that autistic traits affect people in different ways. Some traits may not even apply to some autistic people.
  • People with Autism are by no means stupid. They generally have focus, which makes them very clever and thus good employees.   

The world can be a challenging and confusing place for autistic people, and thus they may behave in a way that others would struggle to understand. Therefore, training is key in this project, in order to raise awareness of what concerns there might be for autistic visitors, but also to highlight the positives and challenges.

I was ready and able to personally deliver the training. It went down a great success with my colleagues and I am incredibly proud to have given them an insight about what it means to be autistic and how best to support visitors with special needs. I liked it so much that I doing it again in a couple of weeks (eek!).

Alongside helpful access information on the website, we at Ipswich Museums are piloting the Early Bird Hour before normal opening times. 9 – 10am on the first Friday of every month (August being the next one) we are trialling an early opening just for people with special needs.

Early Bird hour 1

My intention for introducing this was to give a quieter and stress free space to explore the museum. In public places, you are often faced with bustling crowds and loud noises. This is often overwhelming for autistic people with sensory issues. It was something that I intensely struggled with as a child, and I thought that introducing the Early Bird Hour would help us be more inclusive for people with special needs.

Hopefully that has given you a good insight into the work we are doing at Ipswich. If you would like to know more about Autism, I would suggest visiting the National Autistic Society website.

If you are interested in the Early Bird Hour and Autism access at Ipswich Museum, please look at the Making a Visit page on our website and scroll down to Early Bird Hour. 

Thanks for tuning in!


A week of awards and conferences

Hi all, it’s Lib (I look after the Trainees and occasionally turn my hand to blogging)

As our fantastic four have been up in Edinburgh for the Museums Association Moving On Up conference this week, I thought I’d talk about the Creative & Cultural Skills national awards and conference that took place in Thurrock.

CCSkills are a national, campaigning organisation who promote access to creative careers and their awards aim to recognise excellence across different industries. The ceremony was held on Wednesday 1 March and The Training Museum team were shortlisted in the Cultural Heritage category. Myself and Emma (Collections and Learning Curator) had a fantastic evening, during which we were treated to incredible performances by Stopgap Dance Company and Pandemonium Drummers, as well as a display of pyrotechnics from Backstage Centre students.

Sadly we didn’t win (the well-deserved winner was Samantha Jackman from Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery), but being runners up was a real honor.

The following day, Emma and I were awake bright and early, ready for the conference. The morning was jam-packed with speakers, ranging from current and former apprentices to the Director General of the BBC. We were delivering a breakout workshop in the afternoon on diverse recruitment, getting participants to think about the sorts of skills cultural professionals need and different ways you might assess for them.

We talked about the video interviews and group activities our Trainees had experienced, and shared their thoughts on what it was really like. Alternative recruitment methods can enable more potential candidates to shine and we hope other organisations might consider giving them a try.

Enough from me. I’ll let Mark and the team tell you all about Moving On Up when they return next week.



How to craft fantastic fossils!

Hello, Esme and Tim here!

Over half term, we created and led a free children’s craft activity for ‘Go Live! Fantastic Fossils’ at the Natural History Museum. We were joined by experts from Geo Suffolk, who were identifying fossils, answering questions from budding geologists and showcasing interesting finds from the local area.


To create our activity, we started by looking at the craft resources available at the museum and then spent a bit of time swotting up on Pinterest. After getting excited about salt dough fossils (messy), fossils shapes in ice (messy) and giant, archaeological sandbox digs (also messy), we reigned in our imaginations and produced something simple enough for children to make, but with enough stages that they could feel like they had achieved something.

If you missed our fantastic fossils event, or just want something fun and crafty to do, then here is our guide to making your very own ammonite or fish fossil!

To make an Ammonite you will need:

  • 1 sheet of paper
  • 2 pipe cleaners (any colour)
  • 4 cotton buds (cut in half)
  • Sticky tape
  • Scissors
  • Tissue paper (brown is best but any colour will do)
  • Lots of glue! (a glue stick works well)


Step 1: Make your paper really, really gluey. The more the better!

Step 2: Stick one end of the pipe cleaner to the middle of the paper using sticky tape.


Step 3: Curl this in a loose spiral shape and use sticky tape to fix it to the paper like below.


Step 4: Take the second pipe cleaner and line it up with the end of the first. Fix it to the paper with sticky tape and continue to curl it around. Your spiral shape should now be looking something like this:


Step 5: Take the cotton bud halves and place them inside the spiral with equal spaces between each one.

Step 6: Do you need any more glue? Check that the glue is still sticky and hasn’t dried… if it has add more around the inside and outside of the spiral, and cover bits of the sticky tape too.


Step 7: Place the tissue paper over the top of the ammonite shape (make sure that it is fully covered) and press down… use your finger to press in the gaps between the cotton buds.


Step 8: Draw a line around the shape leaving a gap.

Step 9: Cut along the line using scissors. Ask an adult if you need help.


Step 10: Ta-da! Hold it up to the window to see the details of the fossilised creature. You are now the owner of an ancient Ammonite!

…To make a fish you will need:

  • 1 sheet of paper
  • 1 pipe cleaner (any colour)
  • 4 cotton buds (cut 3 in half)
  • Sticky tape
  • Scissors
  • Tissue paper (brown is best, but any colour will work)
  • Lots of glue!

Step 1: The messy bit again! Put lots and lots of glue onto the paper.


Step 2: Cut the pipe cleaner in half and make two triangle shapes like above. These are for the head and tail. Add sticky tape if they won’t stick to the paper.


Step 3: Use one cotton bud for the backbone and cut three cotton buds in half to make the ribs. Don’t worry if these don’t stick down very well, as the tissue paper will hold them in place.


Step 4: Put tissue paper over the fish bones and press down. Use your fingers to get in between the gaps.


Step 5: Draw a line around the outside, leaving a bit of a gap.

Step 6: Cut along the line using scissors. Ask an adult if you need help.


Step 7: Voila! Hold it up to the light to reveal it’s details. You are now the owner of a fossilised fish!

We hope you enjoy making these. Maybe you could invent a dinosaur fossil?!

Till next time,

Esme and Tim

Harry Potter Book Night at Ipswich Museum

Salutations Muggle’s. Expelliarmus!……  Mark reporting.

Last Thursday evening, we were going mad for all things wizardy at Ipswich Museum, as we hosted a Harry Potter Book Night event. Staff dressed up in an array of costumes and the Museum was decorated from top to bottom with magical props. Michael, Tim and I had all hands on deck. With the rest of our brilliant team and helpful freelancers, we knew this was going to be a blast!

Of course you might ask: what has Harry Potter got to do with the Museum? Firstly, local museums are an interesting environment to host events, as they contain historic collections found nowhere else. Secondly, and most importantly, as a public venue, we want to welcome as many different people as we can. One way to do this is by putting on events that appeal to a diverse range of people. That way, after having a fun experience at the museum, they will perhaps make another visit at a later point, thus achieving our aims.

Visitors were greeted as they arrived in a Harry Potter fashion, with smiling faces and clear instructions for their fun night ahead. You could have your photo taken in our ‘Mirror of Erised’ booth in the Anglo Saxon gallery; take a lesson in Potions, where you could make Immersion Elixiers (bath bombs) to take away; or even handle some magical creatures, which included snakes, toads and ferrets! There was much to get involved in and, even though I was working, it was a lot of fun, especially with the dramatic Harry Potter music getting my pulse racing!

Soon enough it was time to close the doors. Time sure flies when you’re having fun! I believe the evening was a roaring success, as the visitors seemed to really enjoy the activities we put on. It was such a great feeling to know that you’ve helped run an event on such a large scale like this. I also believe it did help achieve our aim of bringing a different audience to the museum, as I noticed plenty of people interested in our objects! Every time people flowed into the main museum building, the shiny glitter of the Wickham Hoard caught their eye.

That’s all from me.


Increasing Diversity In the Museum Workforce conference


Happy New Year everyone! It’s Mark again!

I hope all of you have had an excellent Christmas holiday. I can’t believe it is 2017 already!

Despite it being the New Year, I would like to take us back to 2016 for this post, as I recently attended a very interesting conference at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, about increasing diversity in the workforce.

I went with Rachel McFarlane (Projects Development Officer) and we were joined by around fifty other delegates from museums and organisations around the East of England.

During the conference, Rachel and I were to give a presentation about the on going work at Colchester + Ipswich Museums and in particular, how we have approached the topic of diversity. Of course it was Rachel who led our presentation, showcasing the variety of work from The Training Museum.

I had some time to shine though, as I also was able to speak! I was shaking when I approached the stage, but my delivery was successful. I started by talking about my experience prior to becoming a Trainee, in terms of the volunteering work I had previously undertaken and also the process of applying for the traineeship. Additionally, I was able to touch upon various projects I was in the middle of. I even sat on the question panel, looking rather professional!


The other delegates that attended seemed very impressed with our presentation. I had some nice compliments and even exchanged contact details with some who shall be very useful contacts in the future…

As well as our contribution, I found the other presentations interesting. I was particularly impressed with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, as the speakers were very engaging with the audience. I also enjoyed meeting our counterparts in Norwich, as I have heard about their work and visited the Castle many times. It was a pleasure to be involved in an event they held.

Before long the conference came to an end and it was time to take the train home. It was a fantastic day and I have more ideas about diversity than ever before!

That’s all from me.


Hello 2017

Hello and happy New Year!votenow-2-website

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who voted for us in the UK Blog Awards. We may not have made the judges shortlist, but we are still extremely grateful to those who voted or helped spread the word, and excited to welcome new readers.

To say that 2016 was busy is an understatement. Amongst other things, The Training Museum team were involved in:

  • welcoming 4 new Trainees to the service.
  • organising 68 training sessions for staff and Volunteers.
  • presenting at 2 other national conferences about our traineeship programme.
  • helping promote a range of Volunteer projects, including labelling and packing objects, researching and digitising collections, and supporting holiday events.
  • updating the Colchester + Ipswich Museums website. We’re still going with that one, so please let us know what you think!
  • commissioning new artwork inspired by our collections (like the one at the top of this post).

It may have been a lot of work, but it has also been great fun, and we’re looking forward to what 2017 will bring.

Take care