The Rutherford Building, University of Manchester

Having the opportunity to undertake a placement in a cultural organisation was one of the biggest attractions for me to choose the MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice course at the University of Manchester, because I believe ‘the fruit’ you harvest from practice is one that can hardly be got from a book. In particular, it would not be that easy for me to work in a cultural or arts organisation in the UK by myself, as this is my first time in Europe and I am unfamiliar with this country. With great expectations, I was assigned to be the Project Assistant in the University History and Heritage, a department that belongs to the University of Manchester, which aims to research, conserve and promote the rich heritage of this university. I was excited when I was informed that I would be able to work with the university historian, Dr James Hopkins, to make a contribution to our university’s heritage; the Google result made me more excited, as it shows that it is the first of its kind in the UK.

However, on the first day of my placement, I found that I knew nearly nothing about the history of the university, when Dr James Hopkins introduced his history tour project with reference to the key events and people that shaped our present university. While I was proud of our rich history, I also started to doubt whether I would be qualified for this placement. Then James also introduced the project I would work on, which is a history tour about the Rutherford Building, which was originally called the Physics Laboratory and was named after Ernest Rutherford. This tour mainly aims to engage people with the history of this old building and seek the connection between science and the university back to Ernest Rutherford’s period. Unlike the previous history tours in the University History and Heritage, which are outside the building, this will be a new type of tour that will allow entrance to the building. To some extent, this is not just a fresh attempt for me, but also for the organisation. I still felt the project would be challenging, but, after all, it is about Ernest Rutherford (The father of nuclear physics). I quickly got my energy and enthusiasm back.

My placement objective for this project covers project management, content research, and exhibition development. To be more detailed, what I have done includes writing the project proposal, and preparing a content document which involves the context and history of the Rutherford Building and the life of Ernest Rutherford, as well as the key discoveries and important people related to this building. I also need to contact different people who can help with the project and attend related meetings with Dr. Hopkins. All this has greatly enhanced my professional abilities, such as leadership, communication skills and adaptability to challenges; it even improves my academic abilities, as I have devoted a lot of energy to doing research for the project. I am really delighted that I have the chance to meet the challenges of different roles in the placement, which helps me gain more understanding about different types of tasks in a cultural organisation, based on practical experience. Another ‘big fruit’ is that I have become more confident about my ability.