In September 2016, I started my Masters in Art Gallery and Museum Studies here at Manchester University. Prior to starting my course I had been actively visiting national and regional museums and art galleries. For my placement choice, I decided to continue with the place I been volunteering for the last eight months in Gallery Oldham. I enjoyed my time there and I can actively see that I’m making a difference and I’m able to be part of an amazing team. As a local gallery it has lots to offer by engaging with the local community, and has very interesting objects in the Social History Collection!
My placement role in Gallery Oldham was working on the Social History Collections, assisting the senior curator and the HLF Collections Assistants in preparing for a move of stores. My duties involved cataloguing ephemera objects. This work is part of Gallery Oldham major capital project which will lead to the opening of a new Heritage Centre at the end of 2018. One of the objectives for the HLF is to make collections available to the public.
Cataloguing ephemera, I found that this process was very repetitive and dull at times. However, it was all worthwhile when I came across local items from World War Two. I came across interesting objects like this one in the civil defence box. They included a booklet given to soldiers in 1942, which detailed what soldiers should do when captured. Going through these personal objects just put everything in context – these are real lives and people’s stories that the gallery is trying to tell.
Another fascinating ephemera item I came across was another booklet explaining to civilians how to spot an enemy plane. This is important and interesting because it gives proof on a local level of the amount of information that was provided to the public, and gives a glimpse of what was being produced at the time of war. This puts into perspective how the lives of ordinary people were affected by war. The best part of my placement was finding these amazing and untold stories and being able to read these documents.
One thing I have learnt from my placement in Gallery Oldham is never to underestimate a local gallery and museum. Working behind the scenes gave me the opportunity to discover and learn new things.
Give local galleries and museum a chance, as you never know what you might find!