A Charterhouse placement: Museum and Learning

My name is Flo and I have just finished my 8-week placement at the Charterhouse, as part of my MA course in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

When I first began thinking about my placement I had the vague idea that I was interested in collections, but I was aware that I had little experience in any area of museum working. I did however know that I wanted to be in London to enable me to live at home during my placement. I was also actively looking for a smaller museum as I knew from experience that it would help me to better understand how all the different areas that make up a museum work. The combined museum and learning placement at the Charterhouse was therefore perfect for me as an ideal way to get a taste of different areas of a museum’s organisation. The Charterhouse was also applying for a bid from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to ‘Beautify and Refresh’ their Great Tudor Chamber and as such, much of my placement related to this on some level.

My time was divided between three areas; the first was working with the collections under the guidance of Ellie, the Museums and Collections Manager. This involved condition checking the rooms in which collections are stored and displayed to ensure they met the requirements for lux levels, temperature and relative humidity. Creating a stable environment for the objects is essential for their long-term preservation. I also spent time recording a selection of undocumented books related to the Charterhouse and researching the tapestries that currently hang in the Great Chamber. Lastly, I consolidated the collections database to make it suitable for exporting to MODES, a collections database programme. This will make recording and accessing information about the collection much easier for staff and visitors in future.

The second element of my placement was working with the Learning Programme Manager, Cynthia. I helped develop and run a family activity called ‘Bees in the City’ connected to the newly installed beehives on the Charterhouse roof, in collaboration with Bermondsey Street Bees. This enabled me to see how the Charterhouse was trying to open themselves up to families and younger age groups. I also assisted at the Barbican Children’s Library Fun Day, creating Talbot dog bookmarks as part of the Summer Reading Challenge.

Lastly, as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid, the Charterhouse is striving to broaden their visitor demographic to encourage those who live, work or study locally to visit the museum, take tour or enjoy their wider public programme. My main project was therefore to organise and run a public event to attract one of the target audiences from the bid. I decided to run a morning yoga class in the Great Chamber. This would not only appeal to the target audience of 18-35 year olds but also create an opportunity to tell attendees about the HLF project. The event required me to find and partner with a local yoga studio, in this case AM Power, to provide a teacher and mats. I also created and sent out invitations to over 120 local businesses as well as promoting the event on social media such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, I contacted over 80 brands regarding the possibility of donating some of their products to create goody-bags and we managed to get a mix of healthy food, drink, hair and skin products from companies such as Rude Health, Deliciously Ella and Neat Nutrition. The event was a huge success and raised over £300 for the Charterhouse which I am very proud of.

My whole experience at the Charterhouse was fantastic. Everyone was so welcoming, and I was able to sit alongside all departments and really get to grips with the bigger picture of working in a museum. I can’t recommend a placement there enough and I will definitely be back to visit!

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