Life after Reading #2 Katy Jackson (Wiener Library)

Welcome Week begins today for our new students so it seems like a good time to celebrate the excellent work being done by former students. Katy trained as tour guide with us ages ago and was put back in contact a few weeks back. She is now Community and Outreach Officer at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide and kindly agreed to write a blog post in our ‘Life after Reading’ series.

Katy at the Wiener Library

Katy at the Wiener Library

What are you doing now?

I am the Community and Outreach Officer at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide[1] based in Russell Square, London. I am responsible for the overall community and outreach strategy at the Library in line with a four year Heritage Lottery Fund project which is focused on widening audience engagement with the Library and its collections. I enjoy the diversity of my role; one day I can be networking at a foreign embassy, another day I can be running an exhibition project with an activist group. My other key responsibilities include events management, volunteer management, partnership brokering and social media PR and marketing.

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

Academically, my time at Reading gave me transferable skills which I use every day in my job. I regularly give presentations and speak in public where I also put to use the historical knowledge I gained in my degree. A large part of my day to day work is research based whether it’s finding speakers for an event, looking for potential partner organisations, contacting community groups or researching content for an exhibition.

Reading gave me the opportunity to gain professional experience outside of my degree. I volunteered as a tour guide and family learning assistant at the Museum of English Rural Life[2]. Additionally, I volunteered as an assistant archivist at the REME Museum of Technology[3] during my second year and was offered a temporary paid position for September 2009, before I began my third year. Both these opportunities offered me the chance to learn about working in museum environments and confirmed my aspiration to work in the museum sector.

What training/experience did you get after leaving Reading?

Prior to beginning at Reading I had volunteered at Portsmouth Records Office and City Museum[4], which included a short stint at Portsmouth D-Day Museum[5], so in addition to my volunteering work in Reading I had already built up my practical experience. After finishing my BA I knew that I wasn’t finished with studying and I was torn between doing an MA in Museum Studies or an MA related to the area of history I was interested in (20th century conflict). Despite wanting to work in the museum sector, I decided that having a more specialised masters in history would make me stand out and so I chose the MA War, Culture and History at the University of Manchester[6]. During my MA I had the opportunity to apply for work placement, which I was lucky enough to get, at the Imperial War Museum North[7] on a community outreach project. The combination of my work experience and my degrees meant that I was well placed to work at an institution like the Wiener Library.

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

My advice for current students is this: do everything. Take every opportunity to volunteer, network and get your name known. Build up a professional profile using social media, Twitter is particularly good for that as you can interact with organisations. Don’t forget to use your initiative, just because an organisation isn’t advertising for volunteers or work placements it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask anyway. Don’t forget it’s also important to do things that aren’t necessarily related to your career like joining sports clubs or societies – it will make you a more rounded person. Social skills are equally as important as anything else.

I know the question asked for one piece of advice but I just want to finish with this one point: do what you love. No one ever worked in museums to become a millionaire, but we do usually have a high level of job satisfaction. As Confucius said, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.

The Wiener Library holds Britain’s largest archives relating to the Holocaust and Nazi era. Follow the @wienerlibrary for updates on events, exhibitions and more.

Follow @Katy_WL for day to day community and outreaching as well as other museumy stuff.

Postcard from Samos

Warrior Samos Museum

Warriors Samos Archaeological Museum

I was on the Greek Island of Samos recently (hence the lack of updates) and visited the Archaeological Museum in Samos Town (or Vathy). It houses some beautiful objects most notably the statue of a colossal kouros (a representation of a male youth). The sculpture can be seen in a custom made building opened in 1987 to deal with its massive scale. For most of the time I was there visitors were clustered around the base of the statue having their photos taken.

Kouros Samos Archaeological Museum

Kouros – Samos Archaeological Museum

I personally preferred the collection of smaller items in the adjacent building which used to house a library/ archive (guidebooks differed in opinion). Samos’ location meant that following the flowering of its own culture in the 6th century BC it was involved in trade or conflict with a number of different civilizations. These influences can be seen in the collection which includes some beautiful little Egyptian pieces.

Display cases Samos Archaeological Museum

Display cases Samos Archaeological Museum

As you can see from the images the museum was far from over-interpreted. What it did very well was use stands and subtle reconstruction to make even the smallest of objects interesting. Below is a tiny fragment of pottery which nonetheless jumped out at me. I used to work at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and it was great to see what I think might be a whole aulos being played.

Aulos - Samos Archaeological Museum

Aulos – Samos Archaeological Museum

Before visiting I had been reading Monti and Keene’s (2013) Museums and Silent Objects where they ask whether less impressive objects can be displayed in a way which attracts and keeps the interest of visitors. In this museum the Kouros is clearly the star but by splitting up the larger pieces and the smaller items and by using the simplest of all display techniques (interesting arrangement within a case) curators made sure that it did not overpower the rest of the objects. These tiny objects would have been worn against the skin or clutched in the hand. As such they connect us with individual and imperfect humans rather than their idealised forms.

Heads -Samos Archaeological Museum

Heads -Samos Archaeological Museum