So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu…

by Matthew Abel, Museum Studies Student at the University of Reading

Dissertations are done, exams are over, and, like the Von Trapp children (who we appear to be channelling in this photo), it is nearly time for me and my fellow Museum Studies finalists to say goodbye to the University of Reading. The last three years have definitely changed my life for the better, and in this post I thought I’d share a few thoughts for anyone thinking of applying for a Museum Studies course at Reading.

Yes, Museum Studies is a thing…

When I was looking for a course, I knew that Museum Studies existed as a subject and that I wanted to study it. But pretty much everyone outside the museum world doesn’t seem to know this, so be prepared for a lot of “You study museums?”, “What’s that all about?” and my personal favourite “Oh, that’s… different”.

… but it can mean different things

There are not many undergraduate Museum Studies courses out there (it’s usually a postgraduate subject), but their content can vary significantly. For example, Reading’s courses are combined with either Archaeology or Classics modules, while others have more of an Art History focus. So read the syllabuses thoroughly and think about your own interests. Having worked in museums for a few years before uni, I wanted a course that was practical, relevant and comprehensive (and wasn’t just Art History in disguise), so when I read the Museum Studies and Archaeology syllabus, I knew it was the one for me.

And it is very practical

If you are thinking of taking Museum Studies, it’s pretty likely that you want to work in museums, so the course is very much focused on trying to make that happen. There are lots of practical elements, ranging from object handling seminars, skills-based assignments and museum visits, to an assessed work placement in Part 2 and a group exhibition module in Part 3. If you take the Archaeology option, you also have the chance to attend the Field School over summer. I’m definitely an indoor person so the Field School wasn’t for me, but I’m very grateful I was offered the chance to go on a real archaeological dig! Field experience is essential if you want to be an archaeologist, yet many universities no longer run their own field schools, so Reading has a real edge here.

Image: Installing a display for the group exhibition module in Part 3.

Grab every experience

Because Museum Studies is such a vocational course, you will definitely get more out of it if you can do some museum work or volunteering while you study. This allows you to put what you learn in lectures into practice and network with other people in the sector. As well as the placements mentioned earlier, there are also lots of opportunities to get work experience outside the course. In Part 2, I got a summer job through the Reading Internship Scheme (RIS), which offers paid internships with local companies in various sectors, and is only available to University of Reading students. I spent eight weeks with the Curatorial department at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley on Thames, which was a wonderful experience. I helped install a temporary exhibition, learnt some new collections management skills, and even got taken on a “works outing” to Henley Royal Regatta!

Image: Installing a temporary exhibition at the River & Rowing Museum with Assistant Curators Caroline Brown and Chelsea Eves.

The staff are great

I probably should have mentioned them earlier, but the course lecturers, Rhi Smith and Nicola Pickering, are brilliant too! Rhi’s background is in archaeology and anthropology, and Nicola is an art and architectural historian, so their combined expertise provides a really broad insight into the museum world. Some of the staff at The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), where the course is based, also deliver some of the content, such as object handling sessions and guest lectures. This is a real bonus as you are learning from people who actually do the kind of jobs you are hoping to do. And who better to learn from than the people who brought you such social media sensations as this surprisingly effective mousetrap and this magnificent woolly hero?

Reading is nicer than you probably think it is

Finally, if you like the sound of everything else but think Reading isn’t a very interesting place to live, think again! I was really surprised by how much cultural activity there is in Reading, and initiatives like Place of Culture and the Abbey Quarter are all about promoting this and trying to engage people with it. One of my highlights was seeing the cell where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned during the Inside project at Reading Prison. I also got to meet historian Dr Lucy Worsley when her father Peter did a book launch at The MERL (fun fact: Peter Worsley used to be a professor at Reading and Lucy herself was born here). The British Museum is even planning to open a new research centre in Reading in partnership with the University, so there is a lot to look forward to.

Image: Meeting Lucy Worsley at The MERL.

If you are considering a Museum Studies course at Reading, I hope this post has shown what a great opportunity it can be. As someone who dropped out of another uni at 18 and vowed never to go back, I never even expected to finish a degree course, let alone enjoy it so much. But this just proves that if you find the right course at the right uni, and do it at the right time for you, anything is possible. Auf Wiedersehen!

Squeaky bum time: new year, new exhibition

by Matthew Abel, Museum Studies Student at the University of Reading

 

It’s a new year and that means two things. One, we’re all still a bit fat after Christmas. And two, there are just a few weeks until we Part 3 students launch our Belonging exhibition! It is, in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, “squeaky bum time”.

Belonging is a multi-site exhibition which draws on the varied University of Reading collections to explore issues around inclusion, exclusion, loneliness and sense of place through five themes – Countryside, Culture, Clubs, Conflict and Community. Because Museum Studies is so brilliant, this exhibition is actually our ‘final project’ and doing a dissertation is optional (although three of us have foolishly chosen to do both!). In this post, we are each going to tell you a bit about the work we’re doing to put our exhibition together:

 

Matthew Abel (Countryside) – You could tell so many stories with a broad subject like the countryside, but I’ve been focusing on three key subthemes. Making Rural Communities considers how the idea of community is constructed in the countryside, and how people come to feel that they belong in rural areas. Right to Roam explores how the law has historically excluded people from the countryside, and looks at the ongoing campaign to improve public access. Finally, with immigration dominating the headlines, Seasonal Workers reveals how the countryside has always depended on migrant labour, and how these workers have been treated. Putting these displays together involves lots of practical work too, from planning case layouts to working out how to hang works of art – I am pleased to say I now know what ‘hollow wall fixings’ are! Emily and I will also be donning our boots soon to interview a local walking group!

Image: Two ramblers in a footpath protest at Ribchester, Lancashire, in October 1930. The Museum of English Rural Life, SR OSS PH5/J53.

Samuel Peters (Conflict) – War, what is it good for? Not just a catchy song, this question is one that has plagued history throughout time. Conflicts are quite often the markers used to recognise the passage of time. Centenaries marking various conflicts are commonplace, these happen to remind us of what has come before, the devastation, the loss of life, the irreversible damage. But do humans ever learn? After one war comes another, humans appear to be intrinsically linked to conflict, an inescapable inevitability. As tensions around the world appear to rise yet again, are we moving towards another conflict, is nuclear devastation on the horizon? Throughout conflicts and throughout wars people live, ordinary people, they leave behind innocent markers, things which would not appear to be from within a war, it is through these that we hope to analyse the extent to which humans belong to conflict; and answer the question, what is war good for?

Charlotte Rout (Culture) – To belong is the feeling that you are in the right place or suitable place; to feel happy or comfortable in a situation. Identifying to a culture can give people a sense of belonging and the feeling of being secure and accepted within a society. In the modern world, culture and self-identity are entirely linked, and when the two are disconnected this can often affect a person’s wellbeing, due to feeling isolated or excluded. Themes for this case include migration and globalization and how these can affect the way that individuals feel, especially when they feel that they cannot connect with a culture, including in the place that they call home. This case will use the University of Reading’s Art Collection and display pieces such as Max Weber’s Brooklyn Bridge and Robert Gibbings’ Man in a Tree to show how migration and globalization affect culture and how people feel that they belong.

Emily Thomas (Community) – Community connections are vital to museums and can be difficult for universities to build. ‘Threshold Fear’ is a phrase that many museums are aware of and defines what many people feel when visiting museums in which they feel they do not belong. This could also define the problem many university museums experience, so section will attempt to break some of these barriers down, with a case that will hopefully be held within the Reading Central Library’s exhibition area. It will use stories and images of children brought to Reading during World War II from the evacuee archive, displaying a time when community was a fundamental part of society. The case will also display responses to the word ‘home’ by Berkshire primary school children, bringing the thoughts of past and present Berkshire communities together. A second similar case will also be placed within MERL which will demonstrate the value of MERL’s Reading Room, a useful research facility that anyone can use.

           

Image: Activity sheet created for primary school children on which they could respond to the word ‘home.

Lucy Wilkes (Clubs) – Optimising each of the university’s collections is one of the main aims of this exhibition project. Because of this, we began to think about the Ure Museum and what ancient artefacts could offer in terms of showing a sense of belonging. We quickly realised that one way that ancient people experienced inclusion was via symposiums; elite males would gather to drink and socialise, and this made them feel that they belonged to a group. Women and slaves were excluded from these get-togethers. These ideas are the foundation of the ‘Belonging to Clubs’ case. This subtheme will subsequently explore the idea of belonging to clubs in other ages and communities, linking the Ure collections to the university archives, to discover whether the ancient idea of belonging through gender exclusive clubs has disappeared or simply evolved. Researching this subtheme has involved reading both student newspapers and theatre programmes from the 1920s, and it is surprising how quickly my enthusiasm for archives has grown!

Belonging will run from 20 February to 13 April 2018, with displays at The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Reading Central Library, and the University of Reading’s Department of Archaeology. You will find maps at each site to help you find your way around. We hope you enjoy it!

Museums in Reading

by Gracie Price, Museum Studies Student at the University of Reading

We are very lucky in Reading to have many different museums in the town, covering a variety of subjects. There are eight museums within Reading (one is slightly outside the town however) and so far, I have managed to visit five of these and volunteer in two of them. Reading museums are benefiting from lots of renovation projects, which are improving the access to these museums for the public.

The Museum of English Rural Life

This is the first museum I visited when I started studying at Reading – mainly because we have the pleasure of using the building for our lectures and as I work in the front of house team there. The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) reopened last year after a redevelopment funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum tells the story of rural life in England and has a gallery highlighting some of the Ladybird book art work collection. The MERL is an excellent place for us to learn about museums and we often get ‘behind the scenes’ tours and talks from museum staff.

Reading Museum

Reading Museum is in the centre of the town in a beautiful historic building shared with the town hall. The museum is currently in the process of redeveloping their Abbey Quarter gallery, but it is remaining open alongside the work. The museum has galleries covering a range of subjects including Silchester Roman town, Huntley and Palmers biscuits, Natural History, and the Bayeux Tapestry. One of the main things the museum is known for is their loans box service which started in 1911, the service offers boxes of objects to schools and groups for use in educational activities and they now have 1,500 boxes available.

Cole Museum of Zoology

The Cole is the second museum I volunteer in which is housed on campus at the University. Here I work with the microscope slide collection working to catalogue and organise the collection to improve access for researchers. We recently had a large increase in our volunteer force as the museum will be moving to a new building in 2019, so work is underway designing new displays, cataloguing the collection, and most importantly, to fundraise for the move. The museum was established from the collection of zoology lecturer Francis J. Cole in the 20th century and contains around 3,500 specimens, of which around 400 are on display at any one time. The star of the museum however is the complete male elephant skeleton who greets visitors as they enter the museum – he may also be the hardest one to move when it comes to it too!

Royal Berkshire Medical Museum

Housed in a building just off the Royal Berkshire hospital the Medical Museum provides a compact exploration of the history of medicine. The museum is run by volunteers and is opened on the second and fourth Sunday of the month for visitors and I would suggest you visit. The collection contains many examples of medical equipment and medicines including an iron lung used in the museum and a jar of live leeches. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and were very happy to discuss the collections with me and answer my questions which always makes a visit more engaging.

Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology

The Ure Museum is another museum housed on the campus and it contains a collection of mainly Greek pottery but also some Egyptian artefacts established by the University’s first professor of Classics, Professor P.N. Ure and his wife Dr A.D. Ure. The museum displays the collection of Greek pottery through 9 different themes, including Myth and Religion, Education and Body Beautiful. There are also cases exploring some of the Egyptian artefacts as well as the history of the museum and how the artefacts ended up within the collection.

Other museums

There are three museums in Reading I am still yet to visit, however I am hoping to rectify this in the coming months as they all look brilliant and I have heard wonderful things about them all. These museums are the Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock, the Reading Typography collection on the main university campus and the Berkshire Aviation Museum, which is a short car or bus ride outside of the main town.

Gracie Price, Museum Studies Student at the University of Reading

What is Museum Studies at the University of Reading?

 

by Marina Rogov, Museum Studies Student at the University of Reading

In basic terms Museum Studies is the study of museums, this however is not a very detailed description. On the Museum Studies course at the University of Reading we cover a wide range of topics and get the opportunity to gain practical experience within museums. To try and provide a fuller description I got a friend to ask questions about the subject and I have answered them here:

What is a museum?

Let’s start with the essentials, a museum is an organisation that preserves history through the care and curation of objects and stories. They help to reflect on current issues in society and work alongside the community to make history accessible to all.

When did museum studies start as a subject?

People started to study museums, discuss and produce theories on them from about the 1960s onward, and the debate and discussion continues today. Our undergraduate course in Museum Studies at the University of Reading began as a series of modules that were made available to students from 2006. Now students can study for a degree in either Museum Studies with Archaeology, or Museum Studies with Classical Studies.

What modules do you do?

We do a bit of everything, with theory thrown in, from designing new exhibitions to looking at the history, policy and ethics of museums. We get a chance to study what goes on behind the scenes at these important cultural institutions. This year I am studying museum learning and engagement, which I really enjoy as it’s the area I want to go into. Next term we are studying museum curatorship and management which will help us with our final exhibition we have to plan in the final year of the course.

Who teaches it?

We have two museum studies lecturers, Dr Rhi Smith and Dr Nicola Pickering, both of whom have experience in museums and have a brilliant knowledge of the subject.

Why did you choose to study it?

I have always enjoyed museums, but I didn’t realise I could study it at undergraduate level until I started looking at Classics courses. It is rare to find a course for museum studies at undergraduate level so when I found the Classics and Museum Studies degree in Reading I knew it was the one for me, and it has definitely been the right choice.

What other activities are you doing as well as studying?

Volunteering! It is almost impossible to get a job in museums without previous experience, so volunteering is the way to go. Currently I volunteer in a school helping in their GCSE art classes and I also work at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading (the MERL). At the MERL I participate in the teachers’ panel and work on the front desk. I am also currently helping to organise the new Saturday club for Reading Museum Trustees. There are always so many opportunities in museums so my advice to prospective students is to get involved!

What do you plan to do after your course?

Hopefully I will find a job in education or outreach within the museums sector, as I enjoy working with the public organising activities and events. I am also considering a job in teaching as I enjoy volunteering in schools and the museum studies degree has enabled me to develop transferable skills and knowledge, such as learning how to design session plans. So whilst most people studying the course will go on to have careers in museums, the varied modules also allow you to identify an area in which to specialise or to explore alternative career possibilities.

Finally, would you recommend museum studies as a degree course?

Absolutely! Museums are part of an amazing sector, and there are many different jobs possibilities so you are likely to find the perfect role for you. Museums allow you to work with people from different backgrounds who share common interests and passions and I can’t wait to see where my degree will take me!

Marina Rogov, Museum Studies Student at the University of Reading

A-level Archaeology Event at Glastonbury Abbey Monday 3rd February 2013

Just a quick post to flag up an event. On Monday 3rd February we are running an outreach event for schools as a collaboration between Glastonbury Abbey and the University of Reading. It runs 10:00-13:00 and pre-booking is essential. It’s mainly aimed at A-level students but we’re happy to hear from enthusiastic GCSE or Foundation level classes. I’ve been e-mailing teachers throughout the region but messages don’t always get through so please spread the word.

Eminent archaeologist Professor Roberta Gilchrist will be talking about archaeological practice, medieval archaeology and brand new findings from the Glastonbury Abbey Excavation Archive Project.

There will also be workshops, careers advice and tours of the Abbey. I’m going to be there talking about the challenges of caring for and interpreting monastic heritage sites. Send me an e-mail at r.smith@reading.ac.uk if you want to get the full details or make a booking.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

Guest post #1 Hannah Neifert: Maier, Randolph and Reading

I mentioned in a previous post a visit to the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College. One of our talented student guides Hannah Neifert kindly agreed to write a guest post on the opportunities for student research at the Maier. Hannah also visited the University of Reading as part of their ‘The World in Britain’ programme and she also talks a little about her time in Blighty.

Hannah in the Maier

Hannah in the Maier

During the summer of 2012 I spent 8 weeks as an intern with the Maier Museum of Art located at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia. As an art history major with an emphasis in museum studies, this was the perfect opportunity for me to gain experience working in the museum/gallery setting. Under the supervision of the museum staff, my duties varied from writing extended wall labels for paintings on campus, researching artists for the upcoming exhibition, providing tours of the galleries, filing and organizing documents, and working hands-on with the hanging, dismantling and transferring several paintings.

They have a Hopper!

They have a Hopper!

 One of my lasting projects was to create an iPod audio tour guide for the galleries that hold our permanent collection. I recorded my voice reading a script which guided visitors through each gallery highlighting specific pieces and their relevance to the museum and art history. My work in the museum as an intern was exciting as I was surrounded by the Maier’s impressive collection during my time there. Aside from the internship position, the Maier Museum offers opportunities year-long for students on campus to engage with the art work. The curatorial seminar is an offered course by which students co-curate an exhibition drawing on artworks from the permanent collection, and other courses in English and Philosophy hold classes in the museum. Of course, the highlight of the year is the annual exhibition that has been taking place since 1911 and the Helen Clark Berlind Symposium. These events promote discussion and appreciation of contemporary art with the students and Lynchburg community. At the end of the year, the senior art history majors condense their final paper to a presentation which takes place at the Maier in the gallery which displays the senior studio art majors’ work. It is a conglomeration of student work devoted to studio art and art history.

Painting of a female sculptor

Painting of a female sculptor

   As I ramble on about my small liberal arts college here in Virginia, I would be remiss if I did not mention my time spent abroad at your very own University of Reading for the 2012-2013 school year. Leaving my beloved college was difficult, but I quickly found myself enjoying the experience Reading had to offer me. I was lucky enough to work hands-on with collections from the MERL and Typography department with Martin Andrews in his Ephemera Studies module. I found that while there was no Maier Museum of Art at Reading, the University’s campus held its own vast and unique collection of art and artifacts on campus with museums such as the Ure that satisfied my museum studies needs.

   Being a student at Randolph College and the University of Reading and having access to the museum collections at both locations has made a positive impact in my academic experience. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by wonderful art and artifacts on campus, and it is something I will cherish for years to come. Ars longa, vita brevis. 

Postcard from America #2

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Firstly apologies for the lack of images and links. Blogging on the move with only an iPad takes some getting used to. I am actually posting this from Philadelphia train station!

Our second stop on our whistle-stop tour of the US was Lynchburg Virginia. Randolph College has had a long running exchange programme with the University of Reading. One of my former students Maggie is a Randolph alum who now works in an art gallery in the States. She had waxed lyrical about the Maier Museum (see image for website) so it was great to finally visit.

There was beautiful art in the gallery, including an exquisite Hopper. However, what struck me was how they use the museum as an experiential teaching space for their students. Students co-curate exhibitions, facilitate community education programmes and even create their own iPod tours. Our two student tour guides Stormy and Hannah had an infectious enthusiasm for the collection. Until recently the college was women only and the art, and their interpretation of it, also demonstrated a strong awareness of issues of gender. I was so impressed that I have asked them if they will write something the blog. I am sure that they will do more justice to the collection than I have in these few paragraphs.

Open Days

The open days were fun. I had two great students Georgia and Helen helping me out in the Ure Museum. We had a handling collection out and an iPad with apps designed by students and local schools

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Nearly everybody I invited to handle the objects said ‘I am clumsy I can’t be trusted with objects’. However, those who were brave enough to put on the white gloves were blown away by the age of the objects they were interacting with (2500 years for some of them). We even had a visit from our Twitter-bear Stu who was going around campus being photographed in different locations. Trying to get a tiny cuddly toy bear look like it is handling an object while protecting the object is really tough.

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We got a mix of people coming to talk. Some were just generally interested in the study of the past and looking at different programme options. They were amazed by the idea that you could have a museum at the end of your departmental corridor. Others were hunting out courses which offered museum studies teaching and experience. It made me realise how lucky we were to have the Ure Museum. Many university departmental collections have lost their geographical and intellectual connection to their once home discipline. Remembering this fact made me grateful for the foresight of the curators who fought to build this resource and keep it a part of teaching and research in the University.

Update and Open Days

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

I’ve been away for 2 weeks visiting the Yorkshire Dales, Scotland and Wales. This is almost unprecedented but I didn’t visit a single museum. However, I did visit lots of heritage sites such as the beautiful Bolton Abbey with its ‘picturesque if you’re looking at them/ terrifying if your actually on them’ stepping stones. I also visited White Scar Cave, Ingleton Waterfalls and took a boat out on Lake Windermere.

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

The natural beauty theme continued in Scotland with Loch Lomond and then again in Wales with Puzzlewood. All it takes is a bit of sunshine to remind you how beautiful the British countryside is and how hard it must be for open air attractions when the weather is not on their side. With that in mind I drove back to Reading along a motorway which looked like a river.

Puzzlewood

Puzzlewood

This week has been all systems go getting ready for our University of Reading Open Days. I am going to be situated in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology with a handling collection to give people a real taster of what we offer here. I was in the library and ran into somebody from AACT/ iMuse demonstrating some new Ure Museum apps which were developed in collaboration with University of Reading students and local schools. I got a bit addicted to ‘Splat Medusa’ and I’m borrowing the iPad for a demo at the Open Day. I also updated the cases in the Archaeology Department for the Open Days which was made easier by getting the Lyminge Excavation Project gang to take over a case.

Archaeology case Lyminge excavation objects

Archaeology Department case Lyminge excavation objects

In other news I saw Pompeii Live at the local cinema. I enjoyed it but it set me thinking about the challenges of making an exhibition into ‘a live cinema experience’ and I’m going to post once I’ve done a bit more research. Oh and amongst all of this I was reminded that I had website training and had agreed to be interviewed for our museum blog Our Country Lives. I’d love to go and put my feet up before the Open Days kick off tomorrow but I found out about an intriguing theatre performance around the theme of objects, memories and child refugees ‘Surviving Objects’ so I ‘m off to that tonight. I will try to post something on that and the Open Days next week.

Life after Reading #1 Laura Weill

This is the first of a blog series where I find out what former students and volunteers are doing in the museum, arts and heritage sector. First up is Laura, who has just come back to work for us!

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What are you doing now?

I currently work at the Museum of English Rural Life as a project assistant on the ‘A Sense of Place’ project. I am responsible for updating the online database, making the collection more accessible for researchers and those who are unable to visit the museum. This project has a particular emphasis on place and location as a point of access.

How did your time at Reading prepare you for this line of work?

Museum Studies modules
I did the Museum Studies modules in every year of my undergraduate; mainly chosen because I enjoy museums and was curious as to what could be learnt about them. It was the museum studies module I did in my first year that made me realise museums could be the career for me. I distinctly remember being set tasks where we had to plan trails to engage audiences, which I really enjoyed. I learnt quickly that a lot more thought goes into museums and their displays than I had ever imagined. Having finished the module in the first term, I was keen to get volunteering throughout spring and summer.

Modules in following years included a task where you had to research a chosen object, update the accession file, write a label and design a temporary exhibition around it. The bit of the task I was surprised to find very difficult was being able to write a clear and concise label. I had to ensure it was accessible in terms of readability, reading age and appearance. As well make sure the language was active and engaging. I was had to avoid the temptation to write everything I knew about the object in an essay style piece of writing. This skill has proved very useful for writing object descriptions and labels. This task also allowed me to experience the online database, which I now use every day.

Voluntary
In my first year at Reading University I volunteered on various MERL events and workshops, eventually becoming a weekend tour guide. This gave me a good understanding of the collection, what has been collected and why. This basic understanding is now vital, as I work through the catalogue, ensuring I mention objects’ significance in relation to the collection. Additionally the experience of public speaking during my time as a tour guide really improved my confidence and ability to talk to the public, very important now for interacting with visitors and researchers.

Degree
I did a joint honours degree in Archaeology and History of Art and Architecture (2008-2011). Both involved many trips to museums, galleries and heritage sites, where I was able to look at exhibitions with my new ‘museum studies eyes’, assessing whether they were successful or not. My degree involved a lot of research, skills I now use when updating the catalogue. Furthermore, I came to Reading thinking I wanted to become the next Indiana Jones, a dream squashed by my first experience of practical archaeology at Silchester, where I discovered I can’t differentiate between types of soil and don’t do well knelt in the dirt in all weathers. However, whilst there I assisted on public open days which I really enjoyed.

Thesis
Having enjoyed all of the museums studies modules, and with plans to do a museum studies MA, I decided to choose a museum based thesis topic. Here I compared and contrasted three galleries within the Ashmolean Museum; a statue corridor near the entrance, modern art room on the top floor and the newly refurbished cast gallery. Here I analysed how visitors used the space and then tried to assess why they did so. This allowed me to do more in depth museum studies research and confirmed that I would really enjoy a museum studies masters.

Paid work
At the end of my first year I applied to be a Saturday gallery assistant at the Museum of English Rural Life, a position I stayed in throughout my undergrad. This enabled me to interact with the public, gauge what they enjoyed and why. I was also able to put my tour guiding stills into practice, week after week.

Additionally, with the realisation that I was not going to be a practical archaeologist, in my second year I decided to volunteer in the visitors cabin at Silchester, and in my third year was employed as the visitors manager. This involved organising school and group visits, public open days and a lot of tour guiding. I was also responsible for training students in giving guided tours. Again my time here helped develop my ability to interact and engage with the public.

What training/experience did you get after leaving Reading?

After leaving Reading I went straight on to complete a Museum Studies MA at the University of Leicester, which was recommended to me as the place to study if you wanted to go onto work in the museum industry. It was an amazing year with some really interesting modules, trips and tasks. Everything I learnt was clearly relevant to a career in museums. As part of the master I did an 8 week work placement at Falmouth Art Gallery, allowing me to experience a different kind on museum. Here I did a lot of extensive research and cataloguing, as well as marketing and learning.

If you could give just one piece of advice for current students what would it be?

My main piece of advice would be to take every opportunity offered to you, don’t waste the time you have at university- volunteer, gain skills and experience everything you can. Before my time at the Museum of English Rural Life, I was relatively shy, reluctant to interact with the public. But having been strongly encouraged to do the tour guiding course, by the volunteer coordinator at the time, I gained a lot of confidence and discovered my passion for engaging the public with arts and heritage. I was very lucky to gain so much voluntary experience, which led me to get 3 jobs while at university, a place on an MA course and my current position as project assistant. So get volunteering, not only will it look good on your CV, you may discover a hidden passion.