My 20-day placement in the Greater Manchester Police Museum was a memorable experience during my one-year study in the UK. As a foreign student who neither majored in Museum Studies nor had any knowledge of the Police Force, GMPM seemed to be a brand new world to me. Here, I set foot in the museum sector and knew more about the life of the British people. The friendly curator, museum officer and volunteers were very patient with all my questions. Since I was an MA English Studies student who would like to know more about the UK, they shared many stories with me about British life, and taught me daily English expressions and the Manchester dialect as well.
My task in the first few weeks was to do a collection review with the museum officer. Due to a change in collection policy, GMPM decided to dispose of their international police uniforms in the basement, but before that, they wanted to get a clear idea of these collections, thus the review. I was surprised to see police uniforms from all over the world inside the boxes on the shelves. What interested me the most was the various kinds of international police caps. I even found a cap for a female police officer from mainland China! I wondered about the stories behind the caps with such distinct shapes and why they were going to be disposed of. After reading the relating materials and after talking with the museum staff, I found the reasons and wrote about them in my placement report. The real working conditions in museums are not quite the same as what I imagined as an outsider. It is only when I start to do it that I got a real experience of doing it.
Another part of my placement was cataloguing collections on the MIMSY XG database. It was my first time using database software, especially in a foreign language. In the first few weeks, because of my inexperience in using the software, I sometimes left out some fields that should be filled in. I felt lacking in confidence when describing the collections in English on my own, but thanks to the museum officer’s help, I became used to the database and learnt the skill of description soon. I was often bewildered by some policing collections that I had never seen before, but the museum staff and volunteers were all willing to share their knowledge. I started to know more about Greater Manchester Police Force under their guidance, and later when I saw things concerning the British police force in daily life, I could always feel a sense of intimacy.
Apart from the two major tasks, I also helped to arrange the renovated museum shop and made an inventory of the goods in the basement. Not only that, the museum set up great team-building activities. I took part in the Christmas Party for volunteers which left me with a warm Christmas memory in a foreign country. In February, I attended a study tour to the Chetham’s Library with the volunteers of GMPM. All those activities provided me with fantastic opportunities to get in touch with British people and at the same time know about the museum sector. My placement in GMPM is short, but the memory will always remain in my mind.