This blog follows my placement with Research & Cultural Collections at the University of Birmingham in January 2014, where I will undertake a range of collections management projects to further develop my skills in research, cataloguing, exhibition and preventive conservation.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Final reflections

It’s hard to believe that it’s already my last day in Birmingham! My time here has been really enjoyable and I'm so thankful for the experience and to everyone who helped make it happen. I was made to feel very welcome from the moment I arrived, and while it’s been sad to say goodbye to all the lovely people I've worked with here, I've also had time to reflect on just how much I've managed to do and learn in only 4 weeks.

A token of my gratitude: TimTams

(Photographs by Jenny Lance)
I've been fortunate to work closely with extremely professional and knowledgeable curators, conservators, collections assistants, researchers, educators, administrators and photographers across the diverse collections here at the University of Birmingham. Along the way, I've been able to compare and appreciate how these collections are managed by Research & Cultural Collections, Cadbury Research Library, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Winterbourne House & Garden, to meet the specific objectives of what are very different and unique institutions.

The placement has been undoubtedly “hands-on” with an impressive program tailored by the staff at RCC to match my interests and background. I've been able to strengthen and gain confidence in my existing skills – documenting and conserving objects in preparation for exhibition, providing preservation advice, helping with the packing and re-installation of artworks, researching in archives and receiving training in professional museum photography. Even more valuable has been the challenge of working in areas in which I’d had no previous experience, such as curating an online exhibition and assisting in the delivery of educational programs for school students. This has opened my mind to the ways in which collections can be used and interpreted, and to possibilities beyond my chosen field of study.

Like the University of Melbourne, the collections at the University of Birmingham are large, varied and endlessly fascinating. After one month here I feel like I've only just scratched the surface! It has been a privilege to work first-hand with such extraordinary material. It goes without saying that the collections are a unique resource for students and staff. As a visitor to Birmingham, I've also discovered that the collections can tell a fascinating story that is about more than just the University experience, but encompasses the history, people and development of the city. As at the University of Melbourne, the collections here are an invaluable resource to the broader community.

I'm extremely grateful for the experience of the last four weeks and will look forward to welcoming the next recipient of the Museums & Collections Award to Melbourne in 2014!


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