Tuesday, 23 September 2014

My Museum Education Career: Life After HLF Skills for The Future training - Carly Smith-Huggins

I completed my HLF Skills for the Future traineeship back in April this year and have been up to lots since I have finished. The good news is that I have found employment in the museum education sector. During the traineeship, I trained across the Oxford University Museums learning all about museum education and outreach and working with a range of audiences from under 5s to adults. I really think that this experience helped me to shape and form my career in museum education.

Carly during her time as a Skills for the Future trainee

Since my traineeship I have been working in Oxford based museums the first being the Museum of Oxford, which is based in the Town Hall. At the Museum of Oxford I was the Heritage Learning Assistant and was responsible for the informal learning programme, specifically working with families, but I also delivered special projects with adult community groups. I designed, promoted, and delivered family workshops and activities for children of all ages and abilities. The skills, experience and knowledge that I gained from my traineeship really helped me to just dive straight in and understand family audiences and how they can benefit from museums and their collections. My favourite workshop during my time there was Tudor Tunes. This was a whole day family workshop where families could find out about the Tudors, play with Tudor toys, and listen to music played by our visiting Tudor musician. I wanted to give visitors an insight into what the Tudors might have done and how they entertained themselves, encouraging young children to see that it’s not so different to how we entertain ourselves today. There was even a chance to have a go at playing music and learning Tudor dances. 

Carly delivering a workshop

I also worked with a couple of adult community groups to create a community exhibition on the 20th century artist, James Allen Shuffrey. Shuffrey painted local and iconic Oxford buildings and colleges. During the project I took groups out to visit these locations in order to inspire them to create art works in response. Again the skills gained from my traineeship had a great influence on my ability to run this project. During my traineeship I worked with an adult community group to create lanterns for the Christmas Light Festival lantern parade and this experience really helped me to understand adult audiences and how I can support them during a project. The exhibition will be going on display from September – November in the gallery space at the museum, so go along and see it. 

Carly supporting a member of the Christmas Light Festival community group

Now, I have just started working at the Oxford University Museums again. I feel very happy to be back here working with such fantastic and passionate teams. My official job title is Assistant Education Officer: Families, Secondary, and Special projects. Half of the week I am the Families Education Officer at the Pitt Rivers Museum where I deliver family and under 5s workshops in the museum, and design trails and other activities for families to get involved with the museum and collections. The other half of the week I work in the Museum of Natural History assisting the team in a variety of ways! I will be delivering access sessions and art introductions for secondary school students as well as training and recruiting volunteers for the upcoming Science Saturday workshops for families. I am looking forward to working with a range of audiences and getting to know the collections. 

So far at the Pitt Rivers I have been running lots of events. My favourite so far was Row, Row, Row Your Boat for the under 5s. For this I took the children around the museum on a Row Boat Adventure Tour singing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ along the way. We looked for different types of boats in the museum including canoes, salamas and ships. I am really enjoying being able to put everything I have learnt over the last two years into practice and being able to work on what I am passionate about; learning, museums, and creativity. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Update on The Job Success of Former Trainees - Neil Stevenson, Project Co-ordinator

Oxford University Museums & Collections (OUMC) was awarded a funding grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of the ‘Skills for The Future’ programme. 

Skills for The Future helps organisations across the UK provide work-based training that helps people pursue a career in heritage. The initiative is intended to:

-       Increase the range and quality of work-based training to develop skills in the heritage sector
-       Meet identified skills shortages in the heritage sector
-       Increase the capacity of the sector to deliver training and share good practice
-       Increase the diversity of the heritage workforce

Since 2012 10 trainees have completed their training with us, with a further 6 currently training. The project is due to finish summer 2015. OUMC focused on trainees wishing to pursue a career in museum education and outreach. 

Current trainees meeting former trainees (Carly far left, Kelly far right)

As part of the training each trainee completes 3 placements across 3 of the following OUMC Education Departments: Ashmolean Museum, University Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers Museum, Museum of The History of Science, Harcourt Arboretum & Botanic Garden, and the Joint Museums Office. Each trainee follows a  training plan which in addition to on-the-job training, includes formal training days, peer learning sessions and regular 1:1’s with the Project Co-ordinator.

Training plan 2014-2015

A key selection criteria for our project was that all candidates had to be able to demonstrate they had a barrier to gaining employment in museum education and outreach. I am delighted to report that on completion of their training, trainees have gone on to great job success. Trainees have moved on from Skills for The Future and achieved employment in the following areas:

Families, Secondary & Projects Officer, Pitt Rivers/University Museum of Natural History
Communities & Learning Officer, Stowe House
x2 Education Assistant, Museum of Oxford
Education & Outreach Officer, Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum
Education & Volunteers Officer, University Church St Mary The Virgin
Volunteers Assistant, Joint Museums Office, Oxford University
Programmes Administrator, Schools, Families & Young People, V & A Museum
Education & Interpretation Officer, Lakeland Arts Trust
Membership Development Officer, RSPB
Public Engagement Officer, University of Oxford Museum of Natural History
Learning Mentor, Cherwell School
x4 Freelance Learning Leaders, Cogges Manor Farm

Freelance work, Witney Museum
Seasonal Outreach Officer, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust
Learning & Access Manager, Centre of the Cell
Education Assistant Buckinghamshire County Museum and Roald Dahl Galleries

Volunteer Coordinator, HLF Wild About Hampstead Heath
Administrative Assistant, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
Lifelong Learning & Outreach Officer, STEAM Museum & Lydiard Park House, Swindon

x3 Learning Activities Assistants, Historic Royal Palaces 
Family Festivals Coordinator, Museum of London, Docklands 
Museum Teacher, British Museum
x2 Workshop Leader, The Story Museum, Oxford 
Interpretive Guide, Creswell Craggs Museum and Visitor Centre
Learning & Events Assistant, Natural History Museum at Tring
Volunteering Administrator, Oxford University Joint Museums Office
x2 Learning Assistant, Buckinghamshire County Museum 
Exhibitions Assistant, Museum of The History of Science
Communications Officer, Oxford University Museum of Natural History 
Families Assistant, Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Learning Officer, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Interpreter and Education Facilitator, Galleries of Justice Museum, Nottingham


Friday, 12 September 2014

A Summer of Family Friendly Afternoons at Harcourt Arboretum - Corie Edwards

August was a whirlwind of glitter glue, feathers, and pipe cleaners with the Harcourt Arboretum’s Family Friendly Afternoons taking place each Tuesday during the month. The theme for this summer’s family friendlies was ‘Parts of a Plant’, therefore each week dealt with a different part - we had Lovely Leaves, Brilliant Bark, Fabulous Flowers, and Splendid Seeds.

4 parts of a plant

For each event we had to design a new 10-stop trail around the Arboretum and three craft activities for families to create. Therefore, in just one month we had 40 different stops around the Arboretum and 12 themed craft activities. I found the preparation work to be the most challenging part of running family events.

Designing trails was by far the trickiest part. Locating 40 different trees and shrubs in the Arboretum isn’t difficult as we have over 1,065 species on site. The difficult part is matching trees to the theme and having a trail that isn’t too long, but still covers a good chunk of the 130-acre site. Very often I found myself wishing we could move trees around to better suit the trails.

Another difficult element was trying to make sure the objects we chose would be around for the week the trail was in place. As with any collection, but more so with a living collection, an object you have planned into your event may be there one day but not the next due to various reasons. Sometimes it seemed like the site was against us because trees would stop flowering when we planned our flower trail and animals would eat up the nuts before the seeds trail. It all worked out in the end with some cleaver re-routing.

Preparation for crafts was challenging at times, but was loads of fun. Thinking and researching crafts for children to do that used natural resources was time well spent. Then having to create the craft myself to make sure children could do it was fab! There’s nothing like ending a hard day of work with an hour of making crafts.

Some of the craft activities

All of our family friendly afternoons were held outside. Thankfully this year we had a covered shelter over the picnic table where families were taking part in the crafts. The shelter was extremely helpful because we had rain for at least some part of every family afternoon. The shelter kept the families dry as well as the crafts. I felt it also encouraged families to stay around longer.

We had a number of repeat families each week. It was amazing getting to know our visitors better. I think the families also enjoyed that personal touch because we could address them by name when they arrived and left. Furthermore, we could greet them by saying things like, ‘nice to see you again,’ and also saying, ‘see you next week,’ when they were leaving.  I made a point to take as many pictures as I could of families attending each week. We let the families know that we would be putting the pictures up on the Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum blog. We had multiple families tell us that they went to read the blog afterwards to show their kids how ‘famous’ they were online on the website!

Leaf people

Of course none of the events would have ran as smoothly as they did without the amazing volunteers. The Arboretum has a good number of regular volunteers for family events, but there were also some new-comers this summer. They all seemed to really enjoy working with kids outside and were patient with helping the kids create the crafts we designed. When you have volunteers who leave with a smile on their face, even though there is dirt, glitter glue, tape, and bark stuck on their hands, legs, hair, just about everywhere, you know you have great volunteers. A HUGE thank you for all their help, we honestly couldn’t have done it without them!

“The craft activities are fab: seed related, accessible, good helpers” – Visitor feedback after Splendid Seeds
“It was EPIC!” – 5 year old participant at Fabulous Flowers
“The activities are great + the staff really good with the little ones.”
“Lovely crafts, thank you! And attentive staff.”
“I like my headband. We will come back.” – Child participant after Brilliant Bark
“I like making the book mark + looking at + feeling the bark.” – Child participant feedback from Brilliant Bark
“Good craft ideas. Friendly and helpful staff. Thank you x” – Visitor feedback after Lovely Leaves.

I learned so much about what goes into prepping family friendly events here at the Arboretum. Lynn the Education Officer at Harcourt Arboretum had the theme for the events picked out about 9 months before they were to run. At nine months before you have a vague idea of what you want to include for the events, but it is not until the dates draw nearer that your really nail down your ideas. Getting all your ‘ducks in a row’ and resources prepped and ready to go is time consuming, but well worth it on the day when you get children telling you they enjoyed making one of the crafts or telling you about their favorite stop on a trail. I had one child during splendid seeds that I helped make a cone wind chime tell me the names of the different cones he was using for his wind chime because he just learned about them on the trail. He also told me what his favorite stop was and why. It was brilliant that something I designed actually had an impact and I got to see that.