Thursday 11 June 2015

End of traineeship- beginning of the next chapter – Hannah Eastwood

Well, I don’t quite know how to sum up the past year of the HLF Skills for the Future traineeship in a few words. So much has happened in such a short space of time that it has simply whizzed past! I remember our first day where we wrote down our expectations and areas which were concerning us as a group. I think all of us said that we needed more experience of delivering and that our most familiar audience that we felt comfortable with was families. 

It was agreed that each of our placements would give us equal opportunities to gain this experience and by the end we would be able to give an example of working with all audiences. 

I really enjoyed how supported I was throughout my time at each museum. Each team were there for me, helping me through any worries and encouraging me to give things a go to boost our confidence. I always felt part of the group and therefore had a real sense of how it would be getting a job outside of the traineeship. 

Hannah with a local primary school- lantern making workshop

Alongside our time on each of our placements we also had the chance to meet with our project coordinator for mentoring, 1 to 1 meetings and to chat about anything which we were doing or if there was an area which we were struggling with. These meetings were really beneficial; they helped to maintain a sense of progression and also helped me to document what I was doing in order to feedback. 

I found the training days to be really enjoyable. The many different areas we explored were really helpful- especially as we could then go back to our museums and put our learning in to practice. It’s always really interesting to hear from the experiences of different education officers and to gain insight from their own experiences. 

Hannah on placement at the Museum of the History of Science

Having explored many different collections, jumped to different challenges and experienced delivering to a wide range of audiences, I now feel equipped with confidence and experience to demonstrate my skills on job applications and at interview. 

I have learned lots, but the biggest lesson I have come away with is to remain confident. I know that I am capable and I just need to carry on believing in myself.

I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had and I will continue to pursue a career in museum education. I’m excited for what the future might hold!

Tuesday 9 June 2015

My Experience of Skills for the Future - Corie Edwards

For the last year I have been fortunate enough to work across the Oxford University Museums and Collections as an HLF Skills for the Future Education and Outreach Officer Trainee. It is hard to believe that a year has gone by already, but it has, and in short my future has been changed for the better. I have learned so much and gained invaluable experience and skills. 

Corie on placement at the Harcourt Arboretum

One of my favourite parts of the traineeship was working alongside multiple education officers in various roles with different backgrounds. I could talk to them about anything and they were always there to support me and any ideas. Many times the conversation focused on how museums can shape people’s lives; about what museums can do for people out in the community; why people would want to be involved with museums. I loved those conversations and it just recently hit me that I am one of those people for whom museums help and shape lives. 

Corie in discussion with the Early Years to KS2 Officer at the Ashmolean

Skills for the future was a project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to give those experiencing a barrier to museum work the access and skills necessary to work in this field. This project allowed me to break into a field I have been striving to work in for over five years without success. It bridged that gap between those who were good enough to work in museums but did not have enough experience and could not get hired to gain that experience. I am externally grateful for the opportunity I have been given.

Corie working with a local primary school

Museums are more than buildings filled with objects. They are centres of learning, culture, social engagement, opportunities, fun, and so much more that it cannot be contained within four walls. It breaks out into the community and listens to them to provide an experience unique to anywhere else. The work HLF has done with Skills for the Future and OUMC has reached out and developed a whole new generation of education officers willing to take on the challenges of the future. I am one of those people and I will take this opportunity I have been given to help others through museums because it is museums that shaped my life and my future.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Working with Skills for the Future Museum Education & Outreach Trainees - Clare Coleman, Early Years to Key Stage 2 Education Officer, Ashmolean

It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since I met our first cohort of HLF Skills for the Future trainees. Having trainees around does create extra work but my overriding sense is that I have learned a great deal from them.  Their enthusiasm for learning and willingness to share ideas as well as question how we can best engage our visitors with our collections has given me the chance to reflect almost daily on best practice in museum education.

I feel really fortunate that I had the opportunity to work particularly closely with four of the trainees with primary schools over the course of the project. There have been many highlights. Many hours spent with Lea Kloppinger from cohort one thrashing ideas around and designing sessions and resources for a complex Philosophy for Schools project. Calm Carol Walthew stepping up as a fantastic assistant during our first ever BookFeast event – hundreds of children…all went smoothly. She had great design skills too! Mentoring Carly Smith-Huggins during her fabulous final project ‘Curious Curators’…So good that I have had to pinch that idea! I will always be grateful to Carly for the Curious Curators idea, and I am absolutely delighted that I now get to call her my colleague, as she works in the education departments at the Pitt Rivers Museums and Oxford University Museum of Natural History.  

Then, after a long absence from work, it has been a delight to get to know Corie Edwards. She has been generous with her time allowing me to observe plenty of her taught sessions and pick her brains about what she thinks has worked best in sessions I designed last September but have not seen until recently. Corie is a natural educator and has fabulous questioning skills. She is quick to build a rapport with primary aged children. They love her warm style and the way she values each child’s input. I have seen her grow in confidence in her delivery of a wide range of sessions ranging from British Prehistory, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Anglo-Saxons and creative writing activities during this year’s Bookfeast literature festival.

Clare (l) and Corie (r)

Soon we will be saying goodbye to this final cohort of trainees. As with the previous trainees, I will be truly sorry to see them go and wish them all the best in their future careers. And, sadly, we will also be saying farewell to Neil Stevenson, Mentor and Project Manager, without whom Skills for the Future would never have happened. An all-round good and a valued colleague!

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Craft Café: Planning a Museum Project from Scratch - Aisling Serrant

As a final part of our year long HLF Skills for the Future Traineeship we have each had to devise and run an independent project of our choosing.

The project I chose to run was a series of 4 two-hour craft sessions for adults on Sundays at the Pitt Rivers Museum called Craft Café. The idea for this developed when I noticed a lack of informal arts and craft sessions aimed at adults in Oxford. There are plenty of classes which teach a specific skill, for example painting, often as part of a course people have to sign up for. However I wanted to provide a more casual experience, a chance for visitors to relax and meet new people, and a place people could experiment and explore without the pressure of feeling like they have to be particularly skilled or experienced at art.

As this was my independent project I was responsible for all aspects of the project and so my initial stages of planning were making lists and timelines of these aspects and how they fitted in with each other. Here I have broken down the various stages of the planning process in the order they were carried out to give an idea of how the project progressed.

- Initial Ideas: Who it would be for, when it would run and if people would have to pay to attend. One of the main aims for the project was for it to be accessible to anyone and so I didn’t want to charge too much, however I wanted to test if the project could cover its costs if it were to run again in the future, so I decided on a fee of £3. This stage also involved thinking of a name which would represent what I wanted the project to achieve, and forming some initial ideas for craft activities to run.

- Meeting with the team: Craft Café ran as part of a larger Pitt Rivers Project called the Verve project. At this stage I had a meeting with the team to check they were happy with the direction the project was moving in and confirm some of my initial ideas were practical. Certain ideas did need to be adapted such as the sessions running on Sunday daytime instead of a weekday evening as I had originally planned which was for staffing reasons.

- Choosing the crafts: Next I started to really focus in on what crafts I was going to lead. The difficulty was thinking of crafts which were cheap to make, simple to complete, but also created a high enough quality piece that adults could be proud of making, keep and use in the future. The crafts I decided to do were hand-printing cards and posters, customising canvas bags, painting Easter eggs and recycling paper to make jewellery and drinks coasters.

- Ticket sales: I needed to give people time to see and book onto the event so getting the online booking up and working was the next priority, this involved liaising with the Oxford University online store staff.

- Marketing: I then concentrated on marketing. I produced a poster for the project and set up a Facebook event, Twitter account and blog to follow its progress. I also liaised with the Pitt Rivers Marketing Officer who listed the sessions on online events websites. 

- Sourcing and ordering materials: Ordering materials was another planning aspect, which needed to be done as soon as possible.

- Creating resources: I designed an evaluation form and some pages of inspiration and ideas for the sessions.

- Project administration: I sent out emails with further information to people who booked onto the sessions and responded to any queries.

- Managing staff: Each session started with a tour of relevant objects in the museum. I led two of these and I asked Pitt Rivers staff to lead two of these, to give some variety for repeat visitors, but also to make use of the extensive and fascinating knowledge of staff. 

- Facilitating the session on the day: I chose crafts that didn’t need too much in depth instruction so my job on the day was to lead the tour, explain what to do initially and provide help for anyone who needed it, along with serving hot drinks and sorting out the technical side such as music and a PowerPoint showing relevant objects from the collection. 

And of course I couldn’t resist getting involved in the crafts myself!

- Updating marketing: It was important to keep social media up to date as the project progressed so I posted Tweets and wrote a blog article after each session. I also encouraged participants to tweet what they had made as one visitor Tugba did with the picture below.

- Post-project admin: When the project had finished I transferred the evaluation data from forms onto a spreadsheet. In addition to evaluation forms I had also used fun ‘feedback bunting’ allowing visitors to decorate one side and leave a comment on the other. Finally I wrote a project report including what was successful about it and what could be improved if it were to be repeated. 

I was really proud of what I achieved in the project. I loved running it and having that sense of responsibility and ownership over a project which was completely my own. The sessions all went well and people who visited really enjoyed it, with them rating the sessions on average 9.1 out of 10.  I couldn’t have organized this project without the skills, experience and most of all confidence the traineeship has given me and, as I prepare to start my new job as Family Festivals Coordinator at the Museum of London next month, I feel so grateful I have been given the opportunity to learn and develop so much in the past year.

“Lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Thank you!”
“Loved the session! Very relaxed and great value with all the materials included. Really accessible. Would definitely come again. “
“Fab. Relaxed. Enjoyable. Fun!”