My name is Amy and for the last three months, I have undertaken a Museum Experience Internship provided by University of Cambridge Museums.

Last year, I graduated from my master’s degree in Earth Sciences and, like many recent graduates, I was deciding what was next. My master’s year was spent in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and I already knew that I loved museums and natural history, but I wasn’t sure exactly what career would suit me best.

So, to help me decide on a career path and broaden my skillset, I decided to throw myself into several volunteering positions in museums. I have since learned that long-term periods of volunteering are not uncommon when pursuing a museum career. Being at a different museum every day was an incredible experience, and, while I felt like the work I was doing was meaningful and valuable to the respective museums, I wanted more. And then, I spotted the Museum Experience Internship at the Museum of Zoology.

A taster of museum careers

It was an incredibly full-circle moment when I got this internship because I was at this very museum as a visiting researcher just a few years ago when I decided to pursue this career path. Meeting people so knowledgeable and passionate about the collections here fuelled my desire to work in museums. And then when I got here and met more people, I realised that everyone is incredibly passionate about what they do, in making the museum and its collections better and more accessible to all.

The purpose of this internship was to give me tasters in lots of different areas of museum work, to help me figure out what path I might want to follow in a museum setting.

I never thought I’d be working in marketing, and yet I have really enjoyed working with the public engagement and marketing teams during my internship.

My work in public engagement has included creating a family trail, designing and carrying out family day activities, and assisting with the school visit programme.

Seeing my work on the family trail go from conception and design, to seeing the printed trail being used by families in the museum was incredibly rewarding.

A cardboard box filled with printed family trails titled Growing a Backbone with an illustration of a giraffe.
One of my projects was creating a family trail based on the current exhibition, Growing a Backbone.

I have also written social media and blog posts (like this one!), engaged with visitors in the gallery, and helped deliver the museum’s busy programme of public events.

On the collections side of my work, one of the most exciting things I have been able to do is work with jars of specimens in the wet collection. I have been reorganising and moving them, reporting their condition, and even doing some conservation work. I have also kickstarted the labelling of the historic set of bird eggs collected by Cambridge’s first Professor of Zoology, Alfred Newton.

Amy holds a small jar specimen from the wet collection in front of a spreadsheet on a laptop.
Auditing the condition of specimens in the wet collection.

What’s next?

Over the last three months, this collections experience has opened my eyes to how varied a collections management career can be. When working with museum collections, every day is different, from meeting visiting researchers to caring for specimens. Although I’m not sure exactly where I’ll end up next, I’ll bring with me the diverse skills and experience I have gained from this internship.

Lastly, I must pass my thanks to Arts Council England for funding this Museum Experience Internship and for allowing me to benefit from this incredible opportunity. I have been given the space to explore the various avenues of museum work and follow those that particularly interest me. It is also very important for accessibility in the sector to be able to gain experience while being paid. If anyone considering a career in museums sees an opportunity like this one, I highly encourage you to apply.


Find out more about Museum Internships with University of Cambridge Museums.