January the 13th see’s the end of Wayne and Dayna’s museum internships. In their final blog, they offer some reflections of the past year working on the Shine a Light Project.
The teaching museums programme has been an amazing experience I feel truly lucky to have been one of the 8 people chosen for the pilot scheme! The programme is designed to provide on the job experience four days a week and one day of training. It’s a great first step on what I hope will be a long career path in museums.
For me the highlight has been getting hands on practical experience with the NMAS collection. Over the past year I have had the pleasure of working with a number of fascinating objects everything from a painted elephant skin, to a 6 tonne engine. But my favourite has to be the 15th C chancel screen from St Gregory’s Church in Norwich city centre. The screen depicts John the Baptist, St Barbara and an angel; it’s a rare survivor of the reformation. I was given the task of performing a basic conservation clean to remove any dust that may damage the paint. As I gently cleaned the surface, it was fascinating to see the colours becoming brighter revealing the delicate brush stokes made by the artist centuries before.
One of the best things about working in the Superstore is that every day has been different and presented new and exciting challenges.
Needless to say working on a redevelopment of a store requires a lot of object handling, but this isn’t always as easy as you might think. Ever wondered how you would move the skull of a mammoth? Probably not, and I hadn’t either! The skull belongs to the famous West Runton Mammoth found on the North Norfolk coast. The skeleton was excavated over a number of years, it is the most complete example of its species ever to be found in the world and for this reason it is incredibly valuable both scientifically and historically. From the bones we can learn a lot about the animal, even how it died. The remains are about 600,000 – 700,000 years old and the specimen is incredibly fragile. Myself, the superstore team, Natural History curator and members of the conservation team gathered one brisk October afternoon tasked with moving the tusk into the Superstore. The tusk can be damaged by vibrations so the move required a lot of logistical planning and team work, it was a nerve wracking experience but im pleased to say the move was successful and the skull is now safe in the superstore and ready for visitors when we open to the public in the spring.
I feel proud that the work I have done over the past year will benefit not only visitors but also the NMAS collection.
A big thank you to Hazel Courtley and all the staff at Norfolk Museums Service for their help and support throughout the traineeship.
Time flies when you are having fun! Or so the saying goes, I can vouch for this as my past year working on the Shine a Light project has been so much fun and it’s flown by in what seems like months not a year!! However the Shine a Light project has also involved lots of hard work; physically challenging tasks like moving heavy furniture and constructing racking. As well as mentally challenging tasks like the painstaking and meticulous job of improving collections documentation.
I thought I might pick out a few highlights of my year as well as my favourite object:
In September we opened the superstore to the general public on Heritage Open Day, offering tours of the store as a work in progress. Having been shut away from the outside world in the superstore for so long, it was exciting to have the opportunity to interact with the general public. The tours were fully booked and the fantastic response we received from the public and their interest and fascination in our project and the objects in our collection really re-affirmed that the Shine a Light Project is worthwhile and will be a big success.
I like to learn new things, I don’t think there have been many days I have not acquired a new skill or gained new knowledge. For this I have to thank the patience, enthusiasm and expertise of the many fantastic colleagues I have worked with, so thanks to you all. Finally a big thank you to everyone at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse for all of your help over the year and for making me feel so welcome.
Favourite object? There are certainly a lot of contenders, but I have to highlight the two Snap Dragons!! Not only do they look fantastic, but they are part of the very fabric of the city of my birth – Norwich. The Snaps have been used in civic celebrations stretching back to at least 1408, their history is fascinating and whilst the city has changed over the centuries, the snaps have always been there!
The Snaps will be the stars of our star objects in the superstore, so please come along and see them when we open next year!
Whilst my time working on the Shine a Light project has come to an end, I am immensely proud of the progress we have made and have every confidence that once completed the superstore will be a fantastic resource for museum staff and researchers. It will also provide a fantastic visitor experience for the general public to complement our already excellent museums across Norfolk.
The Shine a Light Project is nearing completion, but keep checking back to hear about it’s progress.