My name is Yun Wang. I am currently a full-time postgraduate student studying the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at University of Manchester. I have taken the Placement Module during the first two semesters. It is really amazing and meaningful for ICP (Institute of Cultural Practice) to offer such great opportunities for MA students to work in real-world institutions. As a Chinese student who does not have experience of working in galleries and museums in the past, it is very hard to get a nice internship during the course in Manchester. Among all the institutions and positions, I was assigned to Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art located at Centre Manchester. My placement position is Engagement Assistant working on the Youthlab programme. I work directly under the Engagement and Programme Coordinator and with a fellow MA student from Leicester who worked part-time as the programme facilitator.
My placement experience has a busy while fruitful start. The Youthlab programme I was working on was delayed and needed urgent revision and research work. I conducted research on learning programmes for all ages that were happening at the moment across the country. In the process, I personally get the chance to have a wide-ranging look and analysis of learning and engagement programmes. It is noticeable that a large number of those art galleries and museums that I looked into have extremely similar classifying approaches, which they categorize their learning programmes by schools, families, young people, old peoples, etc. Some of them also have featured programmes or specialties in providing programmes for specific groups of audiences, including the disabled, those with mental illness, those visitors with autism, music fanciers or even ‘future’ artists who are on the way to pursuing their artistic dreams. It can also be noticed that having these widely shared categories of programmes is really important for relatively big institutions like the Manchester Gallery and the National Gallery. It is a clear match to what I have learned from the Introduction to Museum Studies course in the first semester. I gained so much knowledge about museum and gallery’s visitor spectrum, learning outcomes, and social responsibilities from the lectures. Everything that then seemed to be abstract and less meaningful suddenly proved to be everyday matters to deal with in the art gallery. The content of those past lectures become more and more clear throughout the work, and I felt confident in my professional knowledge, which I never felt before taking the course.
Moreover, because of my being a Chinese person from Mainland China, I was able to offer some cultural help to the gallery, which gives me a sense of fulfilment from time to time. In addition to the Youthlab, I also helped produce a family trail project for the CFCCA. I proposed to design an ‘explorer’ trail for kids, using sheets of Chinese characters scattered in different locations within the gallery as clues to be collected. In the course of collecting the sheets, children are able to explore the whole gallery in a designed way. At the end of the trail children will be asked to compete it for the final prize – a badge that has their names on it! Moreover, the Chinese character sheets they have collected during the journey can be painted into a unique piece of art work in our workshop. It felt so meaningful to have participated in the whole process of developing a new and the first-ever family trail for CFCCA. Thinking about the fact that the idea which is going to happen comes from me is really the biggest and most unforgettable experience for me.