Nicole was with us for a number of weeks in the summer….

“My name is Nicole and I’m a History student studying at Queen Mary University of London. I wanted to volunteer at the museum over the summer to gain more general museum experience and focus my future work experience and career. I have wanted to work in Archives or Museum Education and my placement at the museum has really helped consolidate this decision. Whilst at the museum, I worked in three areas: the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the library Ephemera collection and the Discovery Days family education events as well as at this year’s Festival of Archaeology. These are three stand out moments from my summer at the museum…

I spent my Tuesday afternoons at the museum cataloguing two boxes of family history from the library’s ephemera collection. The boxes, EPH 11 and EPH 11A,  were filled with letters, education certificates, in memoriam cards, memoirs and photographs and taking time to really look at each object as I catalogued them, first by hand and then onto MODES, was a really great way to spend sun-filled afternoons in the library.

One piece that really struck me was this Valentines letter, cut into the shape of a heart with fold out pages. Each fragile page was filled with moving words, and really stuck out amongst the legal documents, certificates and photographs in the rest of the box.

I spent a lot of time working with the Portable Antiquities Scheme during my placement and catalogued 51 small finds in total including a lot of Roman coins, some jettons, brooches, buckles, axe heads and rings. I also became very well acquainted with the magic wand tool on Photoshop and found editing photos quite enjoyable, which was music to the ears of the PAS team.

One of my most memorable moments was an impromptu trip to the Barrow Clump site, run by volunteers as part of Operation Nightingale, which I’d heard a talk about at the Festival of Archaeology. After a tour round the site, including some WW2 arborglyphs, we went to the trench the volunteers were working on – just as they were uncovering a crouch burial. Absolutely great timing and a very exciting first visit to an archaeological dig.

Archaeologist of the Year, Richard Osgood, speaks at Archfest 2019 about Barrow Clump

I also engaged with the events and education the museum has to offer during my placement, both at the annual Festival of Archaeology and with the ‘Discovery Days’ which were artist-run family education workshops every Tuesday. Activities ranged from creating a ‘Museum of Me’ to Archaeology-themed stop motion animation, monolith climbing and a corn dolly workshop. Seeing children focus so intently on twisting damp ears of corn into intricate weaves and plaits, muddling our way through instructions and finishing it off with a little ribbon was fantastic – one family in particular really got to grips with it and made increasingly more intricate creations.

This sharing of ancient crafts was something that also stuck me at the Festival of Archaeology, and for me one the highlights. Re-enactment groups sharing knowledge, crafts and tangible glimpses into the past with such engaged young people was great to see and I myself was quite entranced by the flint knappers and ancient dying process.

My summer at the museum has given me an insight into the impact of local museums on the community both in terms of history through my work with ephemera, with detectorists and archaeologists as part of PAS, and through a summer events program which I saw engaged so many young people and families.

Thank you Nicole. ‘Enjoyed working with you on the PAS.