Transforming People to Transform Museums

9th June 2019

The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art at Palace House has been working with Colchester and Ipswich museums on a new trainee scheme titled ‘Transforming People to Transform Museums’. This scheme consists of nine trainees at five museums in Suffolk including Palace House. This project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This week’s blog will take you through what it is like to work and train at Palace House as a community engagement trainee from the perspective of our Community Engagement Trainee, Charley.

As you can tell from the broad title, the work as a Community Engagement Trainee is very varied; this is partly due to the nature of the museum. I have worked with various teams around the site including the learning team, marketing, curatorial as well as the volunteers to deliver numerous projects and events.

Two of my biggest and most exciting projects were the Twilight event and helping with the Breeder’s Box display. Both processes were very different and had very different objectives.

Twilight is an afterhours free event for families to visit the museum in a relaxed family focussed atmosphere. It takes place across multiple museums in the area during the month of February. My role in this was to create a trail leading the younger visitors to certain objects of interest round our Trainer’s House galleries titled ‘the Wow, the Weird, and the Wonderful’. This involved collaborating with our education team in order to make sure it was suitable for the age group as well as checking levels of readability and respective design elements. This also involved a level of budgeting which is something I hadn’t dealt with before and was a learning curve in terms of compromise and working within certain constraints. The trail went down well with the families that attended the event and we received great feedback.

frankel-headcollar Charley with Frankel's head collar in the Breeders Box display

Helping with the Breeder’s Box display in the King’s Yard was my first taste of exhibitions and I really enjoyed getting my teeth into it. Under the guidance of our Curator, I worked alongside the curatorial team to get the display up and running. I mainly helped with keeping the studs involved up to date with the progress of the display, sourcing images, information and any addition objects as well as helping on the more practical side with placing objects in the cases, learning about and helping with the adjustments of cases as well as learning the ins and outs of object labelling as well as graphic panels. After a few little snags, the display is up and running in the King’s Yard.

The ‘Transforming People to Transform Museums’ scheme is about transforming museum environments through the introduction of fresh perspectives. The trainees, based at Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, The Long Shop Museum in Leiston, the Museum of East Anglian Life Stowmarket and here at Palace House, are all dedicated individuals, with no previous paid museum experience, who are looking to develop new skills, connect the local community through the museum’s collections and gain authentic meaningful experience working in the museum sector.

‘We are delighted to be part of a programme which aims to support local people to learn on the job in a museum environment while developing transferable skills. We have benefited enormously from having a fresh perspective from a young person just setting out on their career.’ - Hazel Courtley, Community Engagement Manager.

I leave for university in September of this year. Having a year out of education to gain such a valuable experience has and will continue to benefit me greatly. Not only has this allowed me to save for the next three years of my life it has also allowed me to learn in a professional setting.

Looking forward, Palace House is taking on two new Community Engagement Trainees starting in October of this year. The applications open the 17th June and applicants need no prior experience or qualifications besides a C grade or grade 4 in GCSE English. The applications close on the 15th July at noon.

Blog by Charley Murfitt, Community Engagement Trainee