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Guest Post: Museum Work Experience

16 January 13 -- jsuess

My name is Samantha and for the past few weeks I have been lucky enough to do work experience at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. It has been very interesting so far and I have learned a lot about what goes on behind-the-scenes in a museum.

I am writing this blog to tell you about my experience so far.

While studying at Durham University I decided that I wanted to work somewhere involved in science communication, and ideally that somewhere would be a museum. Since I graduated in June, however, I have found it difficult to get any job because I don’t have much work experience. Thankfully the Job Centre helped me find a placement and arranged for me a chance to work at the Pitt Rivers Museum for up to eight weeks. This was a fantastic opportunity for me and I am very grateful to the people at the museum who allowed me this chance.

So far I have been able to do a variety of jobs around the museum. I worked in the reception, answering calls and emails and meeting visitors to the museum. I was quite nervous at first, since I wasn’t very familiar with the workings of the museum and this was my first week! That quickly changed and I am glad to have done it now – I learned a lot in just a few days and I felt more confident that I could work on my own.
Then I worked with the front-of-house team, which was great because I was also working in the galleries. The Pitt Rivers Museum really has a unique atmosphere, with its low lighting and thousands of objects inside Victorian cases; it’s as if the museum is an exhibit itself. I learned about working with the public as well as a lot about the museum and its collections, such as one of my favourite objects: a suit of armour made from coconut! (Inv. no. 1491.2.74) It sounds so unusual, something I never could have dreamed up, but it’s a real thing. There are all sorts of fascinating objects to find in the museum.

I have also done administration work in the offices, which gave me skills that I am sure will be useful in all sorts of jobs in future and also gave me some glimpses into how a museum is funded and cared for. After that, I had the chance to work with the museum’s photographer for a day. I didn’t know much about photography, so I found it fascinating to learn some of the techniques that are used to record all of the objects in the museum.

Now that I am about half-way through my time here, I have been thinking about what else I would like a chance to do. Since my initial interest in working in a museum was in communication I would like to do some work with that, such as working with exhibitions or learning how the museum is used to teach people. There is so much going on in the museum that I was never aware of before I am a bit spoiled for choice! I am very thankful to everyone at the museum for giving me this amazing opportunity to learn and gain some very special work experience.

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