Just a little bit of history repeating

In August 2016 I embarked on two weeks work experience at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.  I was lucky enough to earn the placement through the Employability Points Scheme and I am so happy I did, because I thoroughly enjoyed my time and feel it has given me experience and skills applicable in the heritage sector.

I was based with the Collections department, so my first week was spent mainly setting up the new Exhibition; Pole of Cold.  I learnt a lot about conservation of items and the challenges involved with this, such as stabilising the temperature and humidity in display cases.  I learnt about the security of public exhibitions and how to display items and information in a way the public can easily read, enjoy and interact with.  The second week I spent in the Business Archive, observing another aspect of what the Collections team do on a day to day basis.  I was allocated one aspect of the Trust’s history from within the archive and had to organise the documents and compartmentalise them into categories.  Then the documents had to be organised further into chronological order, have any corrosive materials, such as coloured folders and staples removed and finally bound in acid free folders.  Once the documents had been preserved, the contents of each folder is written up onto the computer system and uploaded on the Collections Management System in order to be used and referenced on the website.  Learning to use Vernon – the database software – will be really useful for any job within heritage, and especially in archives.  I even got to practice my translation skills for the Head of Ship Keeping and Heritage Engineering.

I’ve always assumed that heritage involved standing in a room, directing people and occasionally offering them extra snippets of information.  The Historic Dockyard showed me that I was completely wrong to have such a narrow minded approach.  There are a lot of people who work behind the scenes to ensure that our heritage and history is preserved, while at the same time it is available for the public to see and enjoy.  The whole team were so friendly, and have taken very different approaches to get into the sector, but what they have told me is that experience counts for everything.  As a result I hope to go back as a volunteer.  The variety of work has given me numerous transferable skills which could help me in my future life, but also makes it a truly wonderful industry, and I career path I would now seriously consider.

– Maxine Hart is a 3rd year German and History student at the University of Kent.

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