Bringing Museum Studies to life at the Charterhouse

University of Leicester student Niki Ferraro has spent the last eight weeks with us on a work-placement getting first-hand experience of a Learning programme at a museum and historic site.  Here’s her post about how it went…

When I first applied for a placement position at the Charterhouse, I did all the customary preparatory research one would expect. I visited the museum, scoured the website, and knew the basic specs of the 700-year-old site – from medieval burial ground to modern-day almshouse – but nothing quite prepared me for the true wonder of the place. After my first tour I was blown away, and after several other tours and countless hours of research I have come to deeply appreciate the history and beauty of the Charterhouse and the very special community that resides here.

Over the past eight weeks I have been working in the museum’s Learning department under the Learning Manager, Cynthia. Here my efforts were divided into two main areas – family engagement and school programming. In these spaces I have had the opportunity to work on multiple projects, varying in size and intent.

At the start of my placement, for example, I was charged with the duty of creating a family drop-in activity that would run through the summer holidays. The activity was intended to operate independently and be free to access. In the end it took the form of Flowers for Families, a project which takes its inspiration from the Charterhouse’s beautiful summer gardens. Children and adults were welcomed in to craft their very own paper flowers and bouquets. Through the process of designing, promoting, implementing, and maintaining this family offering I learnt so much about program development. I also got to work with other departments at the Charterhouse and to engage directly with visitors. Overall, Flowers for Families was an excellent learning experience for me personally, but most importantly, families came in, enjoyed themselves and got a chance to experience a slice of what the Charterhouse can offer.

My main project during the placement was linked to the Charterhouse’s NLHF project, The Beautification and Refreshment of the Great Chamber. This undertaking will see the installation of ten significant portraits into the Chamber. These paintings all hail from the Charterhouse’s collection and their sitters represent some of the most important figures in England’s Restoration period. My task was to draft a series of primary and secondary school sessions around the soon-to-be Great Chamber portraits. For this undertaking I had to conduct research into the historical time frame, the sitters and the portraits themselves. I also researched the current educational landscape and connected with education teams in other museums and heritage sites across England. After a month of research, discussion, and planning, I produced three pilot sessions that will be carried forward and trialled in the following months. I also wrote an introductory document for staff on the sitters of the Great Chamber portraits. My work for the HLF Great Chamber project was extremely educational and rewarding. I absolutely adored all of the historical research I had the opportunity to conduct and I really benefited from the chance to speak with other professionals in the field. I feel that this in-depth experience with project development will serve me well during the rest of my education and career. I highly appreciate that I was able to work independently and with the confidence of my supervisor, Cynthia, whom I learned so much from.

Working in a place so special is a once in a lifetime experience – even after my short two months, I feel a connection to this unlikely wonderous place in the middle of London (as I feel that all who spend time here do). I am so grateful for the time I got to spend here and for all the support, warmth, and wisdom I have received from the members of staff, volunteers, and the Brothers. I have grown at the Charterhouse both professionally and personally. When I look back to my application in February, I’m not sure I could have dreamt up a more perfect place to spend a summer.

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