My name is Debbie and I am studying for an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies. As part of the programme all students undertake a placement module in order to gain experience in the field. This was slightly different for me as I am already a museum curator working for a local authority museum service, and it is my employer who is funding my study as part of my career development.
I organised my own placement with my employer but at a different museum to my own, as the university guidelines state that you must arrange something that is not part of your usual duties. Trust me, as a curator in a small council funded museum, you are expected to do everything! So it was quite difficult to think of something that I do not do on a regular basis.
Education is a key area for improvement in many museums at the moment, with efforts to tailor exhibitions and displays to the new curriculum after many years of the Victorians taking centre stage. During my career I have mainly helped with the delivery of learning rather than the creation of it, so I thought it would be interesting to see how it is done, especially as there had been so much talk in museum circles about the new curriculum and its impact. I have to admit to thinking it would be a fairly straight forward process, maybe even a bit of an easy day a week compared to my usual work commitments. How wrong could I have been?
My placement was at Sewerby Hall and Gardens on the East Yorkshire coastline. The house, a grade one listed country house set in a dramatic cliff top location, is currently undergoing a Heritage Lottery funded restoration. One of the required outcomes of the project is the creation of new learning resources for schools.
On my first day I was tasked with looking at the partially developed Teacher’s Pack to see how it could be improved, added to or made more site-specific. I was also asked to help with the creation of two worksheets for use by schools on self-directed visits.
I began by researching the new curriculum and current museological approaches to learning, along with familiarising myself with the history of the site and the requirements of the learning resource in terms of the council’s Learning Plan and the HLF project – all this before I could even think about being able to contribute to the development of the resource. Eventually I felt like I knew enough to start having an opinion!
By working closely with my placement supervisor, I devised two worksheets aimed at maths provision, one each for key stage one and two. I also used my design skills and knowledge of Publisher software to overhaul the design of the Teacher’s Pack ready for uploading onto the website when the Hall is re-opened at the end of this year. At the start of this placement I would never have believed that it could take such a long time and so much effort to produce two A4 sheets, but as I have discovered throughout the AGMS programme- like so many things in the museum world, in order to do it well there are many aspects to consider.