The prospect of doing a work placement as part of my postgraduate study was one of the more exciting motivations I had for embarking on another year at the University of Manchester. As an MA History student with little idea about what to do in the future, this module gave me a great opportunity to gain experience in a sector which I had not properly considered career-wise. Before this placement, I had no insight into how these organisations operated or even what they aimed to do, and it was great to see how I could apply the skills I had gained through both my BA and MA History degree’s in the workplace.
My placement was at All Souls in Bolton. All Souls is a beautiful, historic church that has been converted for us as an office and community space. Their mission is to ‘improve the lives of the people of Bolton and strengthen community spirit’ through a series of events and activities that people from around Bolton can be involved in. Our placement therefore aimed to help All Souls work towards this goal of social cohesion.
Our project was an oral history project which intended to gather memories and anecdotes from older people from different backgrounds in Bolton and then interpret them as a performance. I had never conducted an oral history project before so this was a great challenge. We aimed to show that history and heritage doesn’t have to be dull, and that it can be accessible to more people than just historians! As a History student, this project was enjoyable as engaging the public with their own histories is a great way of stimulating historical interest in general.
All Souls allowed us a huge amount of independence on this project, and we had the chance to make it our own. We became aware that Bolton market was the social hub of the town, so we spent a lot of time visiting the market and chatting to the stallholders about Bolton’s history and how the market has changed. The market is so vibrant (with some great bargains!) so this in itself was a great experience. Aside from this we spent a lot of time emailing organisations, using social media to advertise our project and engaging with Bolton’s public.
My time at All Souls gave me a more comprehensive understanding of how small cultural organisations work. Specifically, my role as a work experience volunteer provided me with a valuable insight into the role of volunteers within heritage organisations. This has been an enriching experience for making me aware of my own transferrable skills, as well as opening my eyes to the world of the heritage sector.