I have had the pleasure of working at Manchester Museum on a family and adult engagement placement. I chose this placement because I was interested in gaining some more experience in the engagement side of museum work. I felt that this project offered the perfect opportunity to do this, in a sizeable organisation that I was already involved in through volunteering. I love working with collections working in a more people-focused way could present me with new challenges and be just as rewarding.
I worked primarily with the Family Programme Coordinator and the Engagement Manager, focusing on research and events around these areas. One of my main roles was to assist with evaluation for the museum’s After Hours programme. As a relatively new programme, this process was essential in order for the museum to understand and develop it for visitors. Therefore, my role was significant for the organisation and I enjoyed the responsibility and the knowledge that my work would have an impact. The nature of the evaluation differed each week, depending on the specific theme, activities and desired outcomes of the event. I was lucky to work with a lot of different staff across the museum, from curatorial staff to the visitor team. As well as this, on the Family Programme, I was responsible for putting together research that the Coordinator could use in the future. This included gathering contacts for potential collaborators as well as research into the topic of family itself. For the latter part, I gathered feedback from visitors about what family means to them. This information would be used to inform future activities and even a display to go alongside the Heritage Futures exhibition.
I embarked on my placement during a unique time for the museum as it is currently undergoing a major renovation as part of the “Hello Future” project. This has meant that half of the museum is closed to public for the duration of the redevelopment. While this seems like a shame for current visitors, it is also a very exciting time as in the end the museum will be getting a South Asia gallery, a Chinese culture gallery and a new temporary exhibition space. Furthermore, the staff have been working hard to ensure that visitors do not feel like they are missing out on anything in the meantime. New programmes and activities have embraced the projects aims to transform the museum into the most “inclusive, imaginative and caring” museum in the world.
Overall, I feel very fortunate to have been able to gain a range of skills and experiences through taking on different tasks at the museum. Not only did I gain a better understanding of my own career aspirations but I also got to leave with the knowledge that my work would have a lasting impact on the institution.
Laura Makin is a MA student on the Art Galleries and Museum Studies Programme.