During the months of November 2016 to April 2017 I worked with the Imperial War Museum North (IWMN) in Greater Manchester to improve accessibility practices throughout the museum. When selecting a university to receive my second master’s at I was drawn to the University of Manchester, in part because of the possibility of working with this institution. I had recently completed an MLitt degree in Museum and Gallery Studies and I was looking for an organization that would allow me to take my current knowledge and apply it to the subject of conflict history, one of my passions.
When I originally began the placement at the IMWN I was asked to work as an object handler, educating patrons on different artefacts the museum has in their collections. However, when the Volunteer Director, Danielle Garcia, sat with me to discuss my experience and what I would like to accomplish during this placement we found that working on a specific project would be more educational and rewarding. I was then transferred to the Exhibition and Interpretation Office where I worked with Susie Baines to assist the museum with binders for those with visual impairments as well as working with the IT team to improve the notorious Big Picture Show for those who have difficulty hearing.
The Imperial War Museum family of institutions is infamous around the United Kingdom and the United States, where I come from. I have always dreamed of working with such an important museum and to assist with their daily practices. This placement has granted me the opportunity to see how museums, specifically one focusing on the social aspect of conflict history, create displays that include voices of the everyday civilian, including women and children. Similarly, having the opportunity to work with different departments allowed me to understand the fluid nature of museum work and how each department work for the better of the institutions. I was also educated on the struggles museums face, whether it be lack of finances or smaller collections, I was to given the opportunity to see how museums deal with everyday trials and tribulations. My contribution to the accessibility of museum collections for those with disabilities will assist in the IMWN’s continued effort to make the museum a space for everyone to come and learn from the collections. While this institution has taught afforded me the opportunity to grow as both a museum professional and a historian, the most exciting aspect of my placement was having the opportunity to meet amazing people. While the staff and volunteers are lovely, the most exciting moment of my internship came when I met David Leon Teacher. A former British soldier who fought on D-Day, Battle of the Bulge and assisted in the liberation of a concentration camp. Meeting truly amazing individuals like David is priceless.