13 Apr 2018

Tags: Get involved

Try something new

Ever wanted a fascinating career reaching diverse and interested audiences?

Then a museum placement is a great opportunity for you. I would know, for four months I have been the Reading Abbey Revealed marketing intern. I have researched marketing strategies at Reading Museum and new avenues for reaching out to even more people. This has been an exciting experience in a new direction for me. After studying at the University of Reading I began working at Reading Museum delivering sessions for adults and schools, taking public tours and working in the galleries. My experience has been great and this placement enabled me to try a fun new challenge.

Museums are constantly evolving, offering new experiences and opportunities both for visitors and staff. Reading Museum runs placements working with museum collections, marketing, retail, community engagement and social media.

Photoshoot of volunteers in the Abbey Ruins
Photographing Reading's Royals in Reading Abbey Ruins

What have I learned?

This has been a mixed role working with different departments to promote Reading’s rich heritage to schools, community groups and the wider public. This is in preparation for the Abbey Gateway opening this Saturday and the Abbey Ruins opening this summer. The Reading Abbey Revealed project is the latest in a series of projects creating interesting and immersive events, exhibitions and activities. The Reading Abbey Ruins will reopen in an exciting festival on Saturday 16th June 2018.

It has been great to share my enthusiasm with wider audiences and encourage more people to visit the museum. This February Half Term was one of our busiest. We welcomed nearly six thousand visitors to the museum galleries, Abbey Fun Day and family activities. I have put my creativity to the test, informing people about the Abbey’s journey from condemned ruins to an exciting space for the arts and community, through newsletters, brochures and blogs. It is great to be part of a team with enthusiastic colleagues for the future of heritage in Reading. The museum provides a great, varied experience and it has been interesting to look at other ways to market the offer. I have learned a lot comparing our offer to other museums. It has also given me a great list of rival museums and abbeys across the world to visit!

An interview as a monk

I enjoyed the challenge of working on new tours of the Gateway. This building has had an eclectic career as many things, including a medieval gatehouse, Tudor Palace, Civil War armoury and Georgian school Jane Austen once attended.

One slightly unexpected experience has been the opportunity to work with the press and put my face on national TV. This is all the fault of Emmanuel Macron. The plan to bring the original Bayeux Tapestry to the UK sparked greater interest in our fabulous Victorian copy. I volunteered to help with the sudden surge of media interest, enabling people to explore the story of the Bayeux Tapestry and the rich embroidery on display. It was exhilarating being interviewed (once as a medieval monk), particularly for the BBC as part of the new Civilisations festival. One bizarre morning had me comparing the censored sections of our copy of the Bayeux Tapestry with the rude original (a man’s dignity is saved by underpants in our version).

Getting in role for Bayeux (I'm not normally a knight)

The Bayeux Tapestry is my favourite gallery, but it is a close run thing. This is because there are so many fascinating objects on display and many more in the museum store. This is where many of the museum treasures are kept when not on display, we would need several museums to permanently show everything Reading’s history has to offer.

I have always been interested in artefacts, particularly medieval archaeology. I love being able to get up close with museum objects and learning their story, like this Saxon spearhead from one of the loans boxes (it’s behind Perspex because it is still wickedly sharp). I haven’t been through every one of the one and a half thousand loans boxes, but I have got my hands on a few fascinating objects.

spearhead in a school's loan box
One of our more viscious objects from the Loans Boxes

I am constantly impressed with the work of Reading museum, it is great to hear the stories and experiences visitors have of their time here. Reading is a vibrant town that just keeps growing in size, and enthusiasm for its culture and history. It has been a privilege to get involved and tell people a little more about the town.

Why choose a placement?

Placements at Reading Museum are a great and enjoyable way to develop museum career skills and learn more about working in the heritage sector. There is the opportunity to be part of a highly skilled team working on diverse projects. I have had great opportunities to test out different experiences beside my marketing tasks.

This internship has given me greater skills and made me truly appreciate everything that goes into what Reading Museum has to offer. I would recommend a placement for anyone starting out in museums or who fancies a change of direction. It has been fun and I look forward to what will happen next!