Fianna Fernandes, student placement at the museum 19-23 March 2018
My experience at the museum has been extremely interesting. Not only have I learnt about Salisbury and the history of this area, but also what it is like to work in a real working environment and how much work goes into keeping the museum organised.
I learnt that the general public see a very small portion of what the museum currently stores. They only ever see the tip of the iceberg – this is because there are thousands and thousands of artefacts, ranging from clay pipes to solid gold watches, that have to be cleaned, catalogued, conserved and appropriately stored before they can even be considered to be part of an exhibition or display. There is simply not enough space to display everything at all times. This is not to say that a wedding dress from the 1760’s (which we discovered on Wednesday) isn’t incredible in every way – from its detail to its age.
On Monday, we arrived and had our introductory tour; this consisted of all the basics such as health and safety, where the toilets are and most importantly, the staff room!
Soon after, we dived into ceramics cataloguing. This entailed handling ceramics from the 17th and 18th century. We found out lots about the artefacts that would not be obvious unless viewed up close. We found out the difference between types of clay and methods of creating different types of pottery. In the afternoon we had an in depth tour of the exhibits led by volunteer Kate, and we discussed some of our favourite pieces, from the Jade axe in the Wessex Gallery to a William Turner painting.
On Tuesday, we started the day by creating boxes for larger artefacts in the stores – being careful to be accurate with our measurements and our hot glue technique. In the afternoon, we enjoyed social history cataloguing, where we found a solid gold watch. This was my favourite day overall – we found some very interesting items tucked away in drawers in the attic; some real treasures and surprises.
On Wednesday, we enjoyed costume cataloguing. We catalogued some children’s bonnets from the Victorian era and found a matching set from the Edwardian era; a black silk dress hand embroidered with glass beads; and a woven bonnet with black velvet ribbons. I enjoyed this and finding out how women dressed throughout the periods.
On Thursday, we did Stonehenge Archive cataloguing. We went through many, many, many clay pipes dropped by workers excavating the site and we recorded them; and then re-packaged the artefacts in new bags. In the afternoon, we got to see the other side of the museum – office work and admin. We spent a while sorting through piles of visitor surveys and putting the data onto iPads. Not the most exciting area – but it showed me that not all museum work can be fun and exciting all of the time.
Now it is Friday, and I am sad to have to leave the museum. I thoroughly enjoyed working at the museum this week and finding out what a working environment is like. It has aided me with my work towards my History GCSE, which is partially why I wanted to come to the museum in the first place. I’m extremely glad I was given this opportunity to come and work here and would now strongly consider a possible future career in history. I can now see that not all aspects of work can be fun – but I’m glad that I have learnt this now, and I believe that the museum has been an exceptionally fascinating place to work.
Thank you Fianna – we enjoyed your being here with us.