Let’s start with some background of the Greater Manchester Police Museum. Formerly the Newton Street Police Station, the building was turned into a museum in 1981. Its mission is to use its collections and resources to educate the public about the historical development of policing in Greater Manchester and also the current roles of the Greater Manchester Police (GMP). However the lack of a complete and updated collection database has hindered the research and educational work that the museum wants to achieve. So here I am to work on the documentation project with the new database Mimsy XG.
On the very first day of meeting my colleagues, I was shocked that there were only two full-time employees. The museum has consistently had a small number of staff, which is why they could not squeeze the time and manpower to refine their documentation system. They do have a group of loyal volunteers, who are mostly retired police officers and civilian staff of the GMP, to carry out front of house work and guide tours during open days. However, the museum has entrusted the documentation work to MA Museum Studies students as we understand the importance of an adequate collection database, and we value the skills and experience for building a career in this field. The project aims to review all the existing collections to create a consistent and comprehensive database from scratch, which could enable the museum to facilitate effective collection management and fully exploit the resources for future exhibitions and public access.
Documentation was a very slow process. The first two months I had been working on the same box of police event programme, such as annual dinner, St. George’s Day celebration etc. Sitting in front of the computer and inputting data of these dinner menu all day had soon become a routine job. I was hoping to explore other aspects of museum work in order to maximize my placement experience.
My chances came when the museum was closed in February for refurbishment and I could get involved in other tasks. I helped to take down some of the exhibit and relocate them to temporary storage. I also learnt a lot on conservation and the appropriate tools for cleaning different types of materials. The most exciting time was during Half-term Open Days when the museum reopened and I had to engage with visitors at the interactive space. It was fun to see kids trying out different police uniforms and enjoying themselves. I had not been a very out-going person and this was a good experience to develop my people skills and confidence.
Looking back, I am glad that I chose to do my placement in a museum of this size. It provided me many opportunities to try out new things which have broadened my knowledge in different aspects of museum work. It has also been a great working environment to build friendship with this small yet very lovely team. This placement has both enriched my experience and strengthened my determination to pursue a career in this fascinating sector!