Confucius said “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.” While the great Chinese philosopher was most likely not talking about a work placement in a museum, his sentiment rings true and can easily be applied to such an experience. As part of the Art Gallery and Museum Studies course, students are required to complete a work placement, providing at least twenty days of service with a cultural institution. This experience is designed to allow students to practically apply what they have learned throughout the course’s other modules and to expose students to the real world situations they will find themselves in as they embark on their own professional endeavors. Personally, the experience did not disappoint.
My placement was with the Stockport Story Museum as a curatorial assistant working on the upcoming exhibition honoring the centenary of the First World War entitled: Keep the Home Fires Burning – Stories from World War I. This exhibition, to open 11 November 2014 in conjunction with Remembrance Day, aims to tell the story of World War I through the eyes of the people of Stockport. I chose the offered placement at the Stockport Story Museum as a curatorial assistant for an upcoming exhibition as my future career goals lie in curating, and of the offered choices, this opportunity seemed to hold the most opportunity to learn.
The main objective of my role was the creation of a twelve installment, monthly blog showcasing an object in the museum’s collection pertaining to World War I that tie into the Keep the Home Fires Burning exhibition. For the creation of this blog, my first task was choosing twelve objects from the collection. I found this to be a lot harder than I anticipated; the museum has some really great stuff! I quickly realized as I was perusing the collections that a lot of research was going to need to go into this project, as my knowledge on the First World War and the role the town of Stockport played in the conflict was definitely lacking. After some reading to gain a necessary foundation on the subject, I was able to choose a variety of objects that represented the various themes of the exhibition.
Some of the objects I highlight include sheet music for the contemporarily popular song “Private Tommy Atkins” that would be used to illustrate the number of men from Stockport who enlisted and fought throughout the war, a photo album from the Mirrles, Bickerton, and Day Ltd. factory portraying the women of Stockport who filled the in the production of war materials as men went off to war, and a souvenir handkerchief from Ypres, where in July 1917 Stockport had its worst day in the war.
This role allowed me to help the Stockport Story Museum transfer into the digital age by creating for the institution a more meaningful web presence. The blog coincides with the physical exhibition and showcases some objects that will be in the exhibit and some that will not. Through this work I have gained insight on museums’ use of the internet and how critical a resource it has become. This is something I will definitely take with me as I embark on my career as a museum professional.
The Object of the Month blog’s first object is being showcased right now! Check it out at http://www.stockport.gov.uk/services/leisureculture/visitstockport/museumsandgalleries/exhibitionsatmuseums/homefiresworldwarone/objectofthemonth/ .