Despite having spent three years in Liverpool while undertaking my BA, it came as a surprise to come across 59 Rodney Street on the list of placement options. It was both out of curiosity and due to the activities on offer that I subsequently chose to sign up for the documentation placement with the National Trust.
Working at the Hardman’s House has been a fantastic opportunity to try my hand at a variety of tasks, ranging from helping with the museums inventory over the closed winter period, to writing articles for the house’s National Trust webpage, object cleaning, and label writing. The museum itself, located in a Georgian era town house in Liverpool city centre, has been rightly described as one of Liverpool ‘hidden gems’, providing visitors with a snap shot of the domestic and working life of the city in the 1950s and 60s. Formerly the home and photographic studio of Edward Hardman, the house passed into the hands of a group of trustees upon his death in 1988, who then passed it on to the National Trust in 2003.
It is thanks to Hardman’s hoarding tendencies that the museum collection now comprises of over 13,000 objects, including the most extensive collection of historic plastics and photographic paraphernalia in the National Trust, in addition to canned food which has sat in the kitchen cupboards since their purchase in the 40s (and which have been known on occasion to explode when improperly handled).
Such a large and varied collection has also meant that a great deal of work remains to be done toward the museum becoming fully accredited. Thus the work of volunteers forms an essential part of being able to realise this goal. It’s been fantastic working alongside people from such a diverse range of backgrounds, from undergraduate students studying at Liverpool to professional photographers, nurses and former social workers.
The permanent staff at the Hardman’s House have also been great to work with, with the custodian Catherine Downey having been more than happy to find me a variety of different tasks to undertake alongside the documentation work set out in the placement description. She has also proved to be a mine of information both on the house’s history, and on the day to day running of the museum. My placement therefore has proven to be a real eye opener, and afforded me a wonderful opportunity to get to grips with the various issues and practicalities that are part of the day to day life of a small regional museum.
I feel that working at Hardman’s has been really useful in helping providing me with work experience that will be applicable to the kind of conservation work I intend to go into after I graduate. It really can be described as a unique institution, and I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the time period which its collection encompasses, as well as to anyone who would like to try their hand at a bit of everything over the course of their placement.