My name is Qian Zheng, a Chinese girl who is undertaking the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies in the University of Manchester. I was arranged to take my work placement in John Rylands Library from November 2014 to April 2015. Combined with my interests on cross-cultural exchange and previous learning experience on Chinese literature, John Rylands Library provided an optimum chance for me to make good use of my knowledge and make a contribution to the related Chinese programme.
The main work I did is producing teaching resources for a workshop with topics of Chinese language, history, art and culture, and designing a lesson plan for a trial workshop, at the same time, identifying suitable Chinese items in the library’s collections for the workshop and collecting images or text for the collection. Besides, I also acquired the conservation and handling training. Due to illness my supervisor suffered, we have not launched this workshop yet, and we arranged it to next Chinese New Year of 2016.
John Rylands Library is a functional university library for visitors to do research, learn and visit. Mrs Rylands founded this library in memory of her husband, John Rylands. She commissioned a famous architect Basil Champneys to design and build this neo-gothic style library with the finest materials and high standardsof decoration. In 1972, due to the financial problems, it merged and became a part of Manchester University Library.
In John Rylands Library, the rare Chinese collections are one of the most attractive items. The majority of the collection was purchased from the Crawford collection. There are around 1000 paintings and printed books which are dated from 18th century and 19 century. Some of them are dated from 1600. These collections cover different subjects, such as, art, language, geography and literature (see LUNA-an online image database: http://luna.manchester.ac.uk/luna/servlet).
I attended an A-level student’s workshop in John Rylands Library, and the topic is about how English language changed (see John Rylands Library Education Blog: https://jrleducation.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/a-level-english-language-change-workshop/). This experience expressed me most and inspired me to think about how to deliver museum or library education and engage audiences. In terms of my work placement, I encounter another issue which is interpreting Chinese culture with Western audiences. Therefore, during the process of preparing teaching resources, I put a focus on finding similar culture which is for presenting the difference. For example, I compared the Western festivals and Chinese traditional festivals for attracting visitors’ interest and curiosity. In addition, I did massive online research for extending information of Chinese collections.
I really enjoyed this work placement which play an important role in developing professional practice, such as the time-management skill, decision-making skill and translation ability. This precious experience will benefit me a lot in my future career.