My name is Kai and I’m part of a team of students who have created an exhibition for Durham’s Museum of Archaeology. Throwing It Out There: The Archaeology of Ritual, Rivers and Rubbish is what we have produced as part of our MA in Museum and Artefact Studies. The exhibition displays and discusses the ritual implications of objects found in watery contexts in County Durham.
Museum and Artefact Studies is a really hands-on, practical course that has provided me with countless opportunities to get a feel for what working in museums and with historic objects is like. An especially brilliant module (which admittedly, I didn’t choose at first) is Museum Communication. Essentially my classmates and I were tasked with curating a museum exhibition around a brief provided by the staff. And I mean brief; ours was just ‘ritual’. Then, based on that brief, we did everything that needs to be done to create a museum exhibition. This meant choosing themes and aims, researching and picking objects (while also considering their condition and display needs), creating learning resources & activities, making an online exhibition, marketing, writing text & labels as well as anything else you can think of.
Team work makes the dream work
I took on a few roles within the larger team, principally as secretary and leader of Learning and Engagement, but I also worked hard on graphic design, exhibition writing, and research. As secretary it was basically my job to keep track of our weekly meetings and progress. I monitored attendance, created agendas and action points, and made notes of important discussions that we had as a team. Being secretary was actually a lot more fun than it sounds, especially if you’re a weirdo like me who likes being organised and knowing everything about everything.
On the other hand, being leader of an entire team was completely out of my comfort zone! I tend to be more of a behind-the-scenes worker but I figured I should push myself to do it (and my classmates coerced me). I worked with my amazing team to create worksheets for the gallery space, KS1 and KS2 online learning booklets, and sessions for DAX and Little Dragons. Annabel, one of my wonderful second in commands, gathered audience data which showed that kids don’t love worksheets – but they do love dressing up. So, we changed tack and created a cute little dressing up area, complete with home-painted clothes rail and mirror. I loved creating the worksheets and was sad to lose them, but at the end of the day the exhibition is for the audiences so we wanted to create something they would actually enjoy. Plus, in the end we had enough space for dressing up and a little activity table so it was a win-win really.
The long and short of it is that Museum Communication gave me actual practical experiences of museum skills, and these are pretty much invaluable. There were some intense moments like miscommunicating about who had ordered text panels, or losing a fight with a metal ruler, but on the whole it was my favourite module. I feel like I learnt things that will enable me to get a museum job, and I helped to create something tangible that I can feel proud of. More importantly, the whole MA course has been thoroughly enjoyable – I’ve met some of the best people, learnt from wonderful teachers, and had more new experiences than I can count.
Museum of Archaeology, Palace Green Library, Durham
Open from: 16 June 2023 – 12 November 2023
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