Beth Price has recently finished her third year at Portsmouth studying History, graduating with first class honours (congratulations Beth!). In this blog, the second one looking at students’ experiences of undertaking a placement year, she reflects on the benefits she gained from undertaking a placement at her local museum, the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.
I originally planned to go to Spain for my placement year as a Language Assistant at a primary school, however, due to COVID, I had to quickly find something else. I wanted to stay local to home so was really grateful when my local museum, Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, offered me a volunteering placement.
The placement was unpaid, so I had to make sure it worked around my part-time job at the Co-op. The museum was really accommodating about me having another job, so I was glad that I had told them about it early on in the application process. I learnt that being open and honest with your employer from the very beginning is the best way to get an experience that works best for you.
I quickly adjusted to my daily responsibilities such as welcoming visitors, preparing displays, and creating activities packs for children. One of my first concerns was that I would not have enough knowledge about the displays and collections, however, I made sure I read lots about them and had enough knowledge to answer questions about the local history. I was really pleased when I was able to answer questions from visitors.
I was given lots of different experiences such as going to other sites to see how they worked, as well as shadowing educational classes that were provided to visiting schools. I think my favourite experience was dressing up with a Year 6 class into Victorian farmyard clothing! I have never really thought much of my artistic skills, but after drawing the Christmas display board, the museum managers were really impressed and asked me to create further displays. This allowed me to explore a skill of mine that I didn’t know I had and made me realise how much I enjoyed drawing and being creative. It is definitely something I will keep in mind for when I am career searching now I have graduated.
Due to my placement year happening during COVID, the museum unfortunately had to close on multiple occasions. However, because of this, it meant that I was given the opportunity to work with a team that has a part in the cultural sector, organising events and workshops across the county. I was trained on how to edit their website, create the monthly e-newsletters, and run their social media accounts. This experience has been really beneficial to me as I will be able to apply those technological skills in future careers.
I enjoyed my placement as I gained lots of experience in many different areas. I would say that doing this placement has opened up my eyes to possible career paths in either the educational or cultural sector. Working in a museum environment was also really exciting and I learnt so much along the way which I used in the final year of my History degree. I would recommend doing a work placement to anyone as it’s a year that comes with so many benefits. Not only does it give you experience in a working environment, but it also may open up possibilities for future contacts and career decisions.