As a part-time MA Archaeology student, I have been interested since my undergraduate days in how Archaeology makes itself approachable as a discipline to public outside the academic sphere or the commercial workplace. Here my focus lies dominantly with Public and Community Archaeology, two branches of the discipline which are most commonly linked together due to their combined overall goal of empowering the public to experience and have greater authority over their archaeology. And to have a greater voice in the interpretation of their past, to allow anyone, regardless of background or situation to be able to take part. These ambitions I wanted to bring to the Placement, with the aim of examining how Manchester Museum engaged many different types of audiences.
Throughout my placement at Manchester Museum I have been interested in how technology had been used to encourage and enhance the engagement of visitors. This focus has made me more aware of the different audiences which visit museums, and which has made me consider how differently people may experience the same space. Before the placement, I had walked around the galleries on numerous occasions and took for granted being able to see the objects on display. Now, after learning about all the work being done to engage visually impaired and hearing impaired visitors I have a greater appreciation of the work being done by museums to make them as accessible to as many different audiences as possible. Now when walking around Manchester Museum I consider different ways exhibitions could be made engaging for all audiences. In particular, I hope that in the future it will be possible to increase the tactility of the galleries.
An important part of my placement was my introduction into the workings of the AMBAVis project (2017), and through this I got to see the different approaches the Museum was using to engage audiences with disabilities. Sam, who leads and champions the project at Manchester Museum, kindly allowed me to test out different technologies which had been developed to cater for visitors with visual impairments. This project is appeals to myself as it helps to engage audiences who may otherwise feel disenfranchised by museums, and often unable to access the exhibitions on display. I am especially passionate about making museums accessible to all types of visitors, and I believe that the initiatives being employed by Manchester Museum are an important step towards making the organisation more inclusive.
Through the Placement I was involved with the joint Manchester Museum and the Institute of Cultural Practices’ Pokémon Go Project. This project has taught me event organisation skills, and how exhibitions are planned and created. The most important skill being teamwork. The Project gave me a great opportunity to work with a wonderful team of people within the Museum, who throughout the placement have supported and treated me as an equal member of the planning team respecting my views and suggestions.
Lastly, Manchester Museum has promised to continue providing me with opportunities to help me with my personal development working with cultural institutions. The Museum is allowing me to carry on with the Pokémon Go Project until its conclusion, promising me payment for my continued commitment and work. Additionally, I have also been offered the opportunity to become involved with more Museum projects, one in particular which I will be a part of from June is the inflatable Museum. I cannot wait to start going out into schools and assisting with outreach workshops in the inflatable replica of the museum.