What I learned at the Charterhouse

Shiyu Gong has just finished her 8-week placement at the Charterhouse, as part of her MA course in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. Here she looks back at what the experience was like, and what she learned…

The Charterhouse is very special that it is combined by museum and almshouse. I am attracted by the Charterhouse as it is a wonderful and quiet place as well as a charity institution hidden in a secluded location in central London with a long history. When I chose a museum to undertake my placement in, I had a clear goal that I would like to work in collections of a small historical museum and the architecture of the museum should be attractive and have a sense of history. The reasons were that I could learn about many aspects of museum work in a small museum, and the graceful building could motivate me to work hard and enjoy the placement here. Finally, I was completely fascinated by the Charterhouse.

My task at the Charterhouse was to condition check historic books, ceramics, paintings and drawings, take photos of objects, accession and move objects, catalogue and update records on Modes, research some objects, spot-check loans, carry out environmental monitoring and integrated pest management. With regard to updating the database, it was necessary for me to check the provenance through research or taking a closer look at the inscription on objects, and record the new location of objects after they were accessioned and moved to a new place. For books, I also had to scan the preface or contents page or even some articles in order to write a clearer brief description for each object. Additionally, I gained comprehensive experience in object handling. There are different details need to be paid attention to when I am handling different categories of objects. For example, I should use both hands to give maximum support for a ceramic and not pick up it by handles, spouts or rim, as ceramic is much more fragile and there are identifiable stress points. For paintings, I should not touch the painted surface and try not to touch gilded frames. Also, I had the chance to encounter and know about different damages of books and paper work, which mostly were foxing, cockling, water damage, chips and scratches. I was happy to gain the opportunity to put theory into practice.

During the placement at the Charterhouse, in addition to getting work experience in collections, I also achieved other gains. The Charterhouse team is undertaking a project to restore the Tudor Great Chamber and bring it to life for new audiences. I had the opportunity to learn about the process of the whole project including the schedule of project submission, painting conservation, exhibition content and planning as well as launch of the engagement programme. I realised how long it takes to complete a fantastic project and how difficult it is to undertake. Besides, I paid visit to other museums, such as Sir John Soane’s museum, Museum of London and British Library, to learn about their displaying methods as well as conservation work in the library, which is a rewarding experience to broaden my horizon. Last but not least, I was fortunate to meet friendly staff and genial Brothers at the Charterhouse. Some Brothers even welcomed us to visit their flats and talked about their former jobs, how they knew the Charterhouse and how they decorated their flat. It made me feel like they were also my family.

The placement experience at the Charterhouse was truly fabulous and I really learnt a lot from here. I definitely will be back again!

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