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Experiencing Heritage: Students at the Museum

Posted on: 15th December 2017 By: Jessica & James

This term Jessica Thomas and James Kinch, students from the University of Hertfordshire, have been working at Verulamium Museum as part of the module ‘Making Histories: public history work experience'. Sadly we said goodbye to them both in December as their placement came to an end, but here are a few highlights from their time with us. 

Jessica:

"The three month placement at Verulamium Museum enabled me the opportunity to experience the key themes in public history. This includes helping with schools workshops, archiving, social media and digitising oral history.

In one of my first workshops with the kids they asked me about certain artefacts - what were they? What they were used for? I really did not have a clue… To solve this dilemma I realised confidence is key - the more I knew about the artefacts the more my confidence grew. Each week I was able to help more and more by telling them interesting facts.

My favourite thing about my placement at Verulamium is the variety of work I did. The day would start in the morning usually helping in a workshop with the school children on a school trip, each workshop would be different some were on ‘Artefact Handling’ then there was ‘Takeover Day’ where the kids were in charge and there was ‘Market Shopping’; they were all engaging and fun to help out in. The afternoon had so much variety - we were allocated our own Oral History interview and asked to transcribe it to help the research for the new museum opening in St Albans which really made me feel like I had made a difference and contributed to something.

All in all my experience at St Albans was great! I have learnt so much more than I thought I would which has given me excellent experience for the future and taught me a lot about the organisation of museums."

James:

"As a History student at the University of Hertfordshire, part of my Public History module was to gain an understanding and experience working in a public history institute. Verulamium Museum seemed like the perfect opportunity to further my education of how a museum works and as a student aspiring to become a primary school teacher, would provide valuable lessons to that pathway.

My experience with working with primary school children has fully helped my step towards becoming a teacher by learning valuable lessons in organising classes and activities for the children to participate. From handling Roman objects, to the year 6 Museum Takeover Day, different aspects of teaching have helped me increase my knowledge and judgement of working with children, and has been beneficial to myself by learning from others.

We were also given an oral history task to transcribe, which was an interview with a local resident of St Albans. In my case, I was surprised to listen to a person who worked in a prisoner of war camp during the Second World War in St. Albans. I was able to engage with this character, hearing his story and writing it down for others to read about. We then learnt about the conservation of the museum and a wider view of how the museum is kept running year round, to how the objects are kept in certain conditions, which was significantly interesting to see a larger outlook on the whole museum, as well as the difficulties that are faced to the people working there.

My experience in working at the Verulamium Museum has been incredibly useful as I have been able to understand how public historical institutions work not just for people visiting but for the staff that work there."