At the end of June, four students from North Cambridge Academy took part in a week long work experience opportunity with the University of Cambridge Museums.

The week was split between exploring the different roles within the Fitzwilliam Museum, Museum of Zoology and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. At the end of the week, the students were asked four questions; here are their answers.

The four work experience students on the steps of the Fitzwilliam Museum
Elarna, Rebecca, Keanna and Vanessa

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

 The first question has been answered by Vanessa, who has already worked with the University of Cambridge Museums as a Museum Ambassador through her school. 

To start off with, when work experience was brought up I did not assume I would end up in a museum. I expected myself to work at some local primary school or nursery, but I am glad I didn’t. The opportunity for this arose when the teacher organising work experience at school came up to me and asked me if I would be interested in a placement. Personally, I’ve had experience at the museum through school trips and being a Museum Ambassador. I found these other activities enjoyable so I thought I might as well try it, and I did not regret it. I was hoping that the things we did during the work experience program would be as entertaining as the things that happened as an Ambassador and I experienced a pleasant surprise as they were much more fun. I would truly recommend trying out the museum if they need a place to do work experience.

What surprised you the most about working at the Museums?

Keanna reflects on a visit to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. During this visit, the group noticed an interpretation panel that was created many years ago. The students believed that the wording in the panel was offensive as it described a child in the photo as fat and could be rewritten to reflect a more modern view.

Doing my Work Experience at the Museums has been very interesting but what surprised me the most was about the wording in the description about the little girl’s “fatness”. I think he could have said it in a much better manner rather than being disrespectful about it.

I am also surprised about the handling objects sessions and seeing and knowing how old the objects are. But overall my experience at the museum has been thoroughly incredible, learning about different things.

We passed Keanna’s concern on to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who commented:

Lots of us in the museum are uncomfortable with this label and we have been discussing it for a while. We will shortly be changing the text in this case. Thanks so much for speaking out about it, it’s really important that museum voices are challenged’.”

One of the students cuts card using a guillotine with the help of a conservator
Learning about paper conservation and mount making

What was your favourite part of the week?

Rebecca writes about how much she enjoyed the object handling sessions at the Fitzwilliam Museum. We discussed how to hold ancient objects and what impact this might have on their structural integrity.

Hello my name is Rebecca and I’ve done work experience for a week in the Fitzwilliam Museum. I think the best part of this week was handling the antiques with Anastasia. She taught us about Ancient Greek material culture. We have handled things from Crete and all over the world. He’s a picture of me handling it:

Handling ancient objects
Handling ancient artefacts with Assistant Keeper of Antiquities Anastasia Christophilopoulou

We also handled objects on the last day with Andrew Maloney, such as armour and swords from the armoury in the Department of Applied Arts.

Why should other students take part in work experience at the University of Cambridge Museums?

For the final question, Elarna reflects on their whole week with University of Cambridge Museums.

Students should come to the museums for work experience. This is because you learn a lot of different skills and you can meet some of the people who help the museum. Some of the skills you learn is how to handle artifacts and how to mount pictures.

Through the week we visited the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology as well as the Museum of Zoology. We also went behind the scenes in some parts of the Fitzwilliam Museum.  I recommend this to anyone who is doing work experience and needs a place to go. The University of Cambridge Museums is a great place to do work experience.

During the week I also got to go into the basement and hold artefacts. Please, if you are wanting work experience, do it at the University of Cambridge Museums.