The first work placements in The Hunterian at Kelvin Hall – Scottish History Honours, Semester 1, 2016/17

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston Leave a comment

A staff post from Ruth Fletcher, Student Engagement Officer at The Hunterian.

As Student Engagement Officer at The Hunterian I am tasked with developing and implementing various ways for University of Glasgow students to incorporate collections and public engagement into their learning, research, and personal development. One key aspect of this work is the arrangement of work placements forming a formal and assessed part of course work.

Regency of the Duke of Albany Gold Medal.

In the early planning stages of our move to Kelvin Hall I was unsure what exactly I would do differently in our new facility that might increase our capacity for work placements. We would have fantastic new search rooms for collections-based work, new labs and all the stored collections under one roof, making them much more readily accessible. There would also be a dedicated study space (“The Hunterian Reading Room”) adjacent to our new office. So wouldn’t the opportunities would be considerably greater?

At first glance, yes. However, my experience of organising work placements has repeatedly shown that it is not the organisation name or the role title that makes a good placement, it is the satisfaction of fulfilling a genuine need and the quality of interaction with the museum professionals that supervise such placements. Supervisors need time to share tips derived from years of experience, and to explain fully how the placement role fits in to the big picture of running a museum. So my concern was, with no addition to the number of professional staff who could potentially be supervisors, do all the new facilities really increase the opportunities for work placements? I needed a different placement model that might allow me to increase numbers, without compromising in the quality of experience.

Marriage Medal of James VI and Anne of Denmark.

While pondering this conundrum, I was delighted to enter into discussions with colleagues from Archives and Special Collections who were already working with Dr. Steven Reid, Scottish History in the provision of UG Honours placements for his course: Art Culture and Patronage in Renaissance Scotland, 1406-1625. Through this project, students research selected objects and report their findings in a dedicated blog. As well as the valuable learning this gives the students, it also gives renewed exposure to objects selected by the host organisations. We at The Hunterian were entering this programme in its second year of running and were delighted to try out this format in our new facility, which could cope better with multiple students to one supervisor. I am grateful to my colleague Dr Donal Bateson, Senior Curator, for agreeing to try out this new format and for making available some renaissance medals and coins from the Hunter Collection.

So in October 2017, while still settling in to our new premises, 4 students from Stephen’s course joined Donal in the Coin Library at Kelvin Hall to examine the objects. The students continued to meet with Donal once a week for 3 weeks, and then continued their research remotely or at The Hunterian Reading Room, working on their blogs. Donal has reported that he was delighted with the completed blogs and is keen to repeat the experience next year, which makes me very happy!
Here are the 4 blogs as written by April Hunter (now also a MUSE guide at The Hunterian), Cordelia Payson, Rebecca Niven and Clare Deighan. We thank them for their work.

Coinage of James III
Gold Medal Commemorating the regency of john Duke of Albany 
Marriage Medal of James VI and I
Golden Medallion of James VI and I

I am interested to hear from academic colleagues who might require work placements in Semester 1 2017/18, as we often reach our capacity in Semester 2 when demand is highest. Please remember that placements need not be exclusively collections-based, but might also relate to other professional areas of cultural heritage such as Communications & Marketing or Education & Public Engagement.

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