Celia Justin, of Henrietta Barnett School, London, was with us recently on work experience.
As a prospective Archaeology student with a keen interest in Stonehenge the opportunity to have a work experience placement at Salisbury Museum sounded ideal to discover more about local British archaeology. This placement has not just been useful in seeing what archaeologists do, with the examples of excavations and the Pitt River collections in the Wessex Gallery, but what archaeologists can do, other than digging! The work of acting Wiltshire Finds Liaisons Officer Fiona (and the volunteers!), who are working with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, illustrated the role of opening up archaeology to everyone. By creating an online database of artefacts discovered around the country, understanding is developed of the varied history of the county around us, as well as informing us of the exciting amounts of discoveries being made all around.
Working with Learning Officer Owain Hughes on the Stone Age handling brought home to me the importance of outreach and engaging children in archaeology and their local history, by encouraging a tactile understanding of history. Unfortunately, I started the day after the Lego version of the Constable painting ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows’ was constructed, which sounded like so much fun, but seeing it next to the original I understood the significance in engaging children with the Lego providing them with a bridge to the actual painting!
The Coo Var wall also (whilst perhaps aimed at kids!) I found to be very engaging and fun. As an art student, this innovative instillation using light and luminescent paint inspired creativity and fun, the act of creating the art deeply reminiscent of cave painting.
Overall, the opportunity to go behind the velvet rope of the museum, behind the closed doors, to see how it is run, gave me an increased respect for the challenges of running a museum in the 21st century. The updating of records to digital and the fundraising required to enhance the viewing and preservation of the artefacts, are some examples of what I took for granted in going to museums and exhibitions but am now acutely aware of.
A massive thank you to all the wonderful staff and volunteers at the museum for always being so kind and helpful in answering my questions, telling the most wonderful stories and in giving me directions! Your hard and passionate work is most definitely appreciated!