My name is Ruth Clapham and I’m a postgraduate student currently studying for my Master’s Degree in Art Gallery and Museum Studies. I chose to undertake an ICP placement as part of my studies as I thought this would be an opportunity to gain invaluable experience in the field that I eventually want to work in. this option to take a placement was also one of the reasons why I chose this course and the University of Manchester.
The placement that I chose was at Touchstones Museum and Art Gallery working with another student on their costume collection. The role didn’t take place in the museum itself but in the Arts and Heritage Resource Centre which basically holds its whole collection on nearly 65,000 objects ranging from hoovers and irons to mummified organs and crocodiles. I initially chose this position as a Collections Assistant as it is a role I would like to undertake once I start my career and felt that this was a good stepping stone. Not only this, but I have always loved costume and so the chance to work with early 20th Century clothes was too good an opportunity to miss.
The costumes we were working with mainly covered the early 20th Century, from 1920s ‘flapper’ style dresses to 1940s wedding dresses. Our main task was to condition report and enter the costumes in to the catalogue system as the staff needed help to undertake this pretty large task, especially as they didn’t know what was in each box!
Our daily routine would include unpacking boxes, condition reporting the items that were in there and mounting them onto mannequins so that we could take pictures of them, as well as seeing what they would have looked like on. These pictures were then used on the digital catalogue, KeEmu, and for their social media accounts. We then would repack the costume boxes to accreditation standards and return them to the store.
The second part of our role took place at a desk, entering documentation information into the system and creating social media posts for the museum’s various accounts including Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. These posts are particularly important to the museum as they have a large costume collection which many in the area don’t know exists. The museum doesn’t have space to display many of the costumes and so by displaying them digitally they can curate an exhibition on the web.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this placement opportunity and feel I have gained essential experience which will come in very handy when applying for jobs for when I’ve finished. Hopefully I’ve been able to aid the museum in completing some of the tasks in what might seem like a never-ending list and it’s drawn my attention to what could lie in the depths of other museum stores.