Guest post by Lucy Slater
As a university student with no prior museum knowledge, completing three weeks worth of work experience at North Hertfordshire Museum has been an eye opening and incredibly fun experience. Coming in to the museum for my first day as a complete novice was nerve wracking, but everyone at the museum was helpful, kind and willing to answer my constant stream of questions. My time at the museum has consisted of undertaking a multitude of tasks, such as digitising accession records, cleaning objects of interest (from local swimming trophies to ancient axe heads), and even locating a painting needed by the museum. Each of these tasks brought to light a new aspect of the challenges of museum work and provided me with new knowledge and skills. My goal for this work experience was to learn as much as I could, and the team at the museum made sure I reached that goal.
Local History truly comes to life at the North Herts Museum. My time here gave me a fascinating glance into the world of museum work, but also into the detailed and at times incredibly personal history of the district. From impassioned correspondence between the curator of the former Hitchin football museum and the clubs he requested objects from, to the extensive, colourful, and occasionally abrasive geology collection, North Hertfordshire Museum contains some of the most interesting objects I’ve ever had the opportunity to discover.
If ever you’re in the mood to be immersed in an engaging and dynamic museum experience, or wanting a challenging and fulfilling work experience placement, I cannot recommend North Hertfordshire Museum enough.
North Hertfordshire Museum and the British Schools Museum used a grant provided by Affinity Water to run a week of science investigation activities for local school children. Together, we devised a programme to offer 170 children the chance to spend the day learning about Photography , Science and Local History .
At the new North Hertfordshire Museum in our upstairs Learning Centre the children from Whitehill and Purwell Schools did experiments making and testing water filters.
They also made bubble bath to take home :
At the British Schools Museum they made pin hole cameras and solar prints.
Suzanne Walton, Deputy Head of Whitehill School, said “The children had a wonderful time; the activities worked well with what they had been learning and we had a great day at both museums”.
We’ve been involved in a partnership project since last year with Stevenage Museum and the British Schools Museum called Museum Champions. It is funded by Arts Council England, and allowed the three museums to appoint a Volunteer Development Officer. The aim has been to diversify and strengthen our volunteer programmes at each museum, try new things, and share what we’ve all learned. North Hertfordshire Museum recruited a group of 35 young people aged 14-18 from two Hitchin secondary schools to explore youth volunteering. They worked in groups to think up events to promote the new museum, and one of their first events was a pop up museum in the Market Place on 19 March. The students designed and distributed the poster, devised handling activities and attended on the day. Over 200 people stopped to chat and many put their name down for an e-mailing list to be kept informed about progress towards opening.
One of the groups of young people has worked hard over several weeks to prepare a small display to be part of the ‘Flowers and Wedding Dresses through the Ages’ event at St Mary’s Church, Hitchin on 25th and 26th June. The girls, from year 12 at Hitchin Girls’ School, are interested in going on to university to study a mixture of history of art, history and English Literature. They wrote labels for four wedding dresses, loaned to the display from the Learning Collections of North Hertfordshire and Stevenage Museums. They also helped to set up the display in the church, padding mannequins to give the dresses the right shape.
Some of the finished displays in St Mary’s Church, Hitchin. L-R: An Edwardian tea-dress-style wedding dress and a ballerina style wedding dress from 1956.
The volunteers have enjoyed their experiences so far, particularly the chance to work with others, planning events and working in groups. It gave them a chance to see what life is like for adults working in museums, and to study artefacts.
The group are now taking a break during the exam season and will be back at the museum again just before the summer holiday.