When I was first confronted with the choices available for my work placement, I decided that I wanted to pick one that would result in me leaving with a definite skill that could be applied in the future. This was my main reason behind choosing to do my placement at the Greater Manchester Police Museum (GMPM). The placement called for me to input data from the collection at the museum into Mimsy XG, a documentation software that I had no previous experience in. I believed that this would be a valuable skill to learn gong forwards.
Over the first few weeks of my placement, I learnt how to use this software to document different items in the GMPM collection. Most of these took the shape of Greater Manchester Police dinner party booklets, ranging from various Ladies Nights to multiple Burns’ Suppers, which were so numerous that they still haven’t been fully catalogued! Although originally this was a careful, laborious task; as I became more acquainted with the software, the data input became faster and easier.
Upon returning to my placement after the Christmas break, I was told that the museum would be shut for a few weeks in order for renovation to take place, and that I would be undertaking different tasks whilst this was happening. It was during this time that I learnt and developed the most, and truly gained an appreciation of what it takes to run a museum. Tasks during this period included assisting in tours around the museum, helping to prepare a stand-in exhibition for a recently cleared out room and, most interestingly, cataloguing the collections that resided in the basement of the museum. These sessions in the basement not only led to the discovery of some great objects, ranging from police uniform to football hooligan paraphernalia, but also taught me some basic conservations skills that I can take forward.
During all of these activities, Mimsy aside, I was accompanied by the museum officer. Or rather, I accompanied her. The variance of the tasks that had to be undertaken by the museum officer in this small museum, aided adequately (I hope) by myself, and how she overcame them taught me the valuable lesson of what needs to be done from day-to-day in order to keep a museum going. The museum is run by two paid staff, the museum officer and the curator (who’s knowledge of policing in Britain never ceased to amaze me), along with volunteers. These volunteers are mostly ex-police officers who lead many of the tours at the museum and have a lot of great stories to tell. The dedication and hard work of this small workforce has helped this converted police station become a highly regarded museum.
I shared this placement with Elaine Ngan (albeit on separate days), and reading her blog (available at https://culturalpractice.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/elaine-ngan-greater-manchester-police-museum/ ) and comparing it to my own experiences shows me further the different challenges that can be found in the museum. I never met any horses, but I did have to help deal with a small flood.
Upon entering the GMPM and beginning my placement, I expected to learn and become somewhat proficient with the documentation software Mimsy XG. It is to the great credit of the staff at the museum that I can not only use the software (when documenting dinner booklets at the very least), but I have also left with a much higher degree of knowledge and experience along with some very fond memories.