During the final week of University of Cambridge Museums Work Experience, Deniz from Impington Village College, Maicie from Stour Valley Community School, Katie from Comberton Village College and Nellie-Mae from Cambourne Village College all spent time at the Fitzwilliam Museum and another of our University Museums. We asked them some questions about their time with UCM, what they did and what they enjoyed the most.

Why did you want to do work experience with the University of Cambridge Museums?

Nellie – Ever since I was little, I have adored museums. I believe historical artefacts are something to be shown and cherished and also, when my family have outings, we normally go to museums and I am always fascinated by the stories of each artefact. The other reason why I wanted to do my work experience here was to see what job opportunities there were in museums and how all the roles work together.

What was your favourite part of the Museum?Work experience students posing in the Fitzwilliam Museum

Deniz – My favourite part of the museum is the statue of Budha. The reason why this statue can be considered as my favourite is because I’m interested in Asian culture and the sayings of Budha (Gautama).

My second favourite statue is… well you’ve guessed it, the totem pole at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The reason why I found this piece fascinating is actually quite cliché, compared to the responses other people give, is because it’s so impressive and huge. My third and last one is the Shaman clothing, also at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The reason behind it might be because of the fact that it belongs to my (Turkish) culture. In fact, some of the actions which are being taken by the name of the Islam in Islam are based on Shaman religion (Evil Eye Bead a.k.a Bead of Nazar, pouring water after someone leaving etc.) And that’s it. Overall, I definitely had a great week working in there.

What has surprised you about working at the museums?

Katie – Firstly, I was surprised to find that there are a much larger range of jobs at the Fitzwilliam than I would have imagined: people work in departments in everything from curating and security, to marketing, conservation, events and education. They all contribute to keeping the museum running and we were actually able to get an insight into what they do every day as part of their roles.

Furthermore, I was amazed to find out how vast the collections were – the Museum of Zoology only has 0.3% of its artefacts on display, while the Fitzwilliam has at least 16,000 items in the Egyptian section alone. My week at the museums additionally helped me to further understand the significance of the objects stored at the Museums (many of the items can still offer opportunity for research and often new revelations). For example, the Fitzwilliam’s department of Paintings Drawings and Prints has worked with Da Vinci’s ‘Two Horsemen’ sketch, as well as a Turner piece. Similarly, the Museum of Zoology is in possession of various specimens collected by Charles Darwin and some of his Galápagos finches. Finally, I was able to realise how important the public are in running the museum, with frequent checks as to whether the Museum is accessible and educational to as wide an audience as possible (we got to carry out a ‘mystery shopper’ survey in order to assess such aspects).

Work experience at the Zoology exploring the collectionsWhy should other students take part in work experience at the University of Cambridge Museums?

Maicie – As a student that has taken part in work experience, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time. Throughout the week we have done many different activities such as mystery shopping, paper conservation, book conservation and presentative conservation. This was to give us an insight in all the different roles within museums.

I have a very big interest in History, so working in a museum would be my ideal job. Doing work experience in the museum has shown me potential roots I could take to become a historian and how I could apply for jobs within museums for the future. Before I came to the UCM, I believed there were only a few roles such as security, historians and curators, however, this week has shown me that there are jobs within many other departments.

I believe students should take part in work experience at the University Of Cambridge Museums to get to see the different roles available and to have an amazing week. Doing work experience within UCM has been one of the best experiences so far. If you want to enjoy a week and learn whilst doing it you should apply for an opportunity for work experience at the university of Cambridge museums.