This week we had student Aine Dodman join our team on a work expereince placement. In this post she write about all the things we got up to:

As a student at Madras College, I was offered the opportunity to take one week away from school on work experience with AWARE from the 26th to 30th of September. I was kindly given a place at the MUSA Collections Centre and handed a very full and varied itinerary for the week ahead. Knowing little about the museum and its work, I was taken by surprise at the quantity and quality of the collections and also of the different sites. The work differed every day, but this made it even more enjoyable.

On the first day, I arrived at the Collections Unit slightly nervous, but I settled quickly, which was lucky, as there was a lot of information to take in! I was shown around the various sites all over St Andrews, including MUSA itself, the Bell-Pettigrew and the Gateway Galleries.

In The Bell-Pettigrew Museum

I was given lots of background knowledge of the collections and the work involved. There was clearly more than I first realised, but everything was very well explained and I learned a great deal about museum life.

On Tuesday, I spend the day at the museum itself working front of house. In the morning this involved a number of important tasks, including welcoming visitors, managing the shop, cleaning the glass cases and conducting environmental checks. In the afternoon, I was asked to design a flyer advertising MUSA’s social media and also helped in the greeting of customers. Another task I carried out was to take photographs of the new Community Case display of Irvine for MUSA’s new Facebook page.

Wednesday morning was the Museum Collections Unit Staff Meeting, followed by a short session of computer work. During the afternoon I attended a talk at the Gateway Galleries on Robert Chambers that linked in with the new temporary exhibition ‘The Beginning and the End of the World’. I found that very interesting and very well presented. Afterwards, I attended a symposium about Professor James Irvine, also attended by his grand-daughter who recently published a biography about her grand-father’s life. As I didn’t know much about Irvine, I was surprised to find out how heavily he influenced the University and St Andrews to such an extent that the St Andrews we know today would probably be a very different place without him.

The first job of Thursday morning was to collect a silver candelabrum from University House to MUSA for a talk, quickly followed by the collection of broken wood from three statues in the University House garden (which we soon discovered were full of woodlice and all manners of creepy bugs-eek!). Then we were due to go across to St Mary’s and supervise paintings being put up on display in the Senior Common Room, but instead, due to some complications, we ended up drinking lovely hazelnut coffee and listening to some ghost stories- still not quite sure how that managed to happen…

Afterwards, I learned about object handling and cleaning in the Collections Centre and had a brief introduction to the object cataloguing system called Adlib. Then it was time for lunch, and then we headed across to the Bell-Pettigrew Museum to pack seabirds due to be loaned to another museum the following day for a new exhibition. (We thought the birds looked like they were wearing capes!)

Me and my new buddy ‘Wonder Duck’

My last day, Friday, I spent working in the Learning and Access department. I was given a short introduction on the team’s work, and was then asked to design posters advertising two upcoming events– ‘Meet Sir David Brewster’ and ‘Fantastic Fossils’. (Look around town closely enough and you just might find one!) After lunch, I assisted in the maintenance of the Learning Loft at MUSA, where talks and workshops are given. This mainly involved giving a good cleaning to some sturdy paint pots, armed only with fairy liquid, vinegar and a toothbrush! It was a really good end to an amazing day.

I had a great week at MUSA, a fantastic experience, and I have to thank everyone for all their effort into making my week so memorable. I would definitely recommend this placement to everyone. I’ve had a wonderful time, and am even more encouraged to pursue a museum career.

Written by Aine Dodman


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