I joined the University of Cambridge Museums team in early April as Inclusion Assistant Apprentice. Here’s everything I have been up to in my first few weeks.

My first few weeks as Inclusion Assistant for the University of Cambridge Museums have been a whirlwind – in the best possible way! From jumping headfirst into community events to seeing a real dodo bone, it’s been a busy time!

One of my first opportunities in my new role was to support Learning Associate Marie Kennedy with a disability friendly opening at the Fitzwilliam Museum for families with children with special educational needs and disabilities. For this specific opening we worked with animation artist Charlotte Bill.

Everyone was encouraged to take part in creating a drawing for the animation based on our favourite item in the museum, resulting in a wonderful animation celebrating some great artefacts. Despite a wrestle with the sensory tent in the set up and pack down of the opening, the event received some great feedback, reflecting conversations I had with parents on the day.

A mummified cat and other cat related artefacts in the Egyptian section of the Fitzwilliam Museum.
A mummified cat and other cat related artefacts in the Egyptian section of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Some of my favourite items in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Following this I worked with Community Participation Coordinator Clemency Cooper to host a Cambridge City Council holiday lunch activity session. This included a craft activity borrowed from the Whipple Museum about orreries, linking to the solar eclipse experienced across the world earlier in the week. Given the quite technical activity, I was so pleasantly surprised that our activity table was consistently busy – from very young children who loved the colouring to older children who sat at our table for some time and were really interested in the science behind what they were creating.

Another exciting project I have started working on is this year’s Art at Home packs in conjunction with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), and artists Marie and Kaitlin Ferguson. Each summer we send out these packs to local children and include all the necessary materials needed to complete the three levels (look, copy and make) of a museum-themed craft.

This year the packs are based on a Japanese netsuke of a baby sparrow from the MAA. A netsuke is a kind of toggle, attached to a cord and worn on the sash or ‘obi’ at the waist. The sparrow is simply adorable, and I think everyone will really enjoy creating some pieces with the packs, based on the bird’s little grin.

A sparrow netsuke sculpture.
The sparrow netsuke used as inspiration for the Art At Home packs 2024. Photo: Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Between these events I have had some great meetings with the UCM Team members, learning about their individual roles and the types of events and offerings they each have planning for the coming months. I’m very much looking forward to observing some of Learning Associate Ruth Clarke’s Portals to the World sessions, where people with a dementia diagnosis or cognitive impairment and their care partners are engaged in talks, gallery exploration and a creative or object handling activity.

A moment of pure joy for me in these first few weeks, as my new colleagues will attest to, was that during our tour of the Museum of Zoology stores – an amazing experience in itself – Collections Manager Mathew Lowe showed me a real dodo leg bone! I love dodos and even my bathroom at home is dodo-themed!

A dodo skeleton in a glass case at the Museum of Zoology.
A dodo skeleton and skulls at the Museum of Zoology.

Overall, it has been an exciting few weeks that have allowed me to feel truly immersed in museum life from the get-go. I am loving learning more about each of the museum’s collections and seeing how they can be used to engage visitors, as well as attending inclusion events that have been so carefully and cleverly curated. Looking at my diary, I feel like the next few months are going to be just as exciting too.

I will be back with another update soon!