Caring for the collections: a traineeship with National Museums Scotland

My traineeship at the National Museum of Scotland started in late September 2015. It had always been one of my ambitions to work in a museum and I recognised that this was a great opportunity.

The aim of the Heritage Lottery-funded traineeship is to provide non-graduates from diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to work and learn in the cultural heritage sector. There are 10 trainees (aged between 18-25) placed in museums across the UK and the British Museum manages the project.

Trainees are provided with a large array of learning opportunities and can choose to shape their learning experiences depending on their interests. I am based in the Human Resources department, which gives me a good insight into how the museum operates and provides me with ample opportunity for training.

My traineeship is based around the care of the collections and working with the public.

Cleaning the Atalanta and Hippomenes overmantel
Cleaning the Atalanta and Hippomenes overmantel at the National Museum of Scotland.

I hugely enjoyed working in Collections Care as the work was very hands-on: this suits me as I am dyslexic and prefer visual and verbal education. With this team, I was assisting with packing and transporting items for installation in the new galleries. I worked with the Preventative Conservation team, learning about pests and protecting the collection. The head of the team, Tatiana, taught me about maintaining the collection, for example, monitoring light, relative humidity and temperature, and I spent much of my time cleaning objects, from vintage cars to taxidermy and miniature agricultural equipment. I was even given the chance to clean several planes, including the Vulcan, a Cold War Nuclear bomber.

Cleaning the Vulcan
Cleaning the Vulcan at the National Museum of Flight.

I believe that the program is a great alternative to university or college. The main advantage is that the learning experience is quite hands-on and gives the trainee a really good experience of what it’s like to work in the cultural heritage sector. I hope that, going forward, all public organisations will be more willing to take on trainees from diverse backgrounds.


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