The Atkinson in Southport, which contains a library, art gallery, museum and 2 theatres, describes itself as ‘a cultural pick and mix’. In whole hearted agreement with this description, I find it very reflective of my placement experience with the organisation.
My placement at The Atkinson was primarily focused on the temporary Shojo Manga Exhibition that occupied one of the three gallery spaces that make up the Atkinson’s art gallery. Running for 5 weeks between January and February 2016, the exhibition was a touring loan from Kendal International Comic Festival. The Atkinson chose to host the exhibition in order to promote their existing collection of Dan Dare comic art, as well as to develop their programming for families and young adults.
I was first attracted to the placement as the chance to work on such a fresh and unique exhibition very much excited me. As a fan of Japanese pop culture, the exhibition’s subject matter was a large cause of this excitement. The fact that the placement would provide an opportunity to gain further experience for the career path I hope to follow in the future, as well as further develop skills I had already accumulated, was an added bonus.
The main objective of my placement was to assist with the creation of engagement opportunities, particularly for young adults, to support the exhibition. However, by the end of my 20-day placement I had gained practical experiences in many more areas then this, including: contributing to the promotion of the exhibition on Twitter and Facebook; creating an interactive activity trail in the gallery; assisting with the condition checking and installation of the artwork; helping to organise and run a draw your own Manga session as part of The Shojo Manga family activities weekend; and producing an evaluation report after the exhibition closed using the comments left in the exhibition’s visitor book.
Outside of the Shojo Manga exhibition, I also had the opportunity to work with the Lifelong Learning team in a number of ways including; supporting one of the Atkinson’s Freelance Creative Learning Practitioners in the running of their Little Artists sessions, an outreach programme for pre-school aged children and their young parents; creating a trail for the museum which met the requirements for, and enabled children to work towards, the Children’s University award; and assisting with the schools programming and evaluation of the Festival of Speed, which celebrated the land speed record being set on the Sefton coastline in 1926.
In all, my placement was an invaluable experience, and I am so glad I decided to take the module as part of my MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies. Through my placement I was able to put knowledge I had learnt in other modules into practise. Yet,perhaps most importantly, I gained a deeper understanding of what it takes to work in the cultural sector, and the importance of developing a flexible, multi-tasking working style, something that will benefit my employability in the future.
I would like to thank Jane, Helen and all the team at The Atkinson for the support, opportunities, and insight they gave me during my placement.