A Year in the Life: Museum Collections Traineeship at the University of St Andrews



Each year,  The Museum Collections Unit recruits two trainees from the Museum and Galleries Studies programme at the University of St Andrews.  The successful candidates are trained in either Collections management or Learning and Access aspects of Museums.

Our Curatorial Trainee (Collections), Morna, is halfway through her one year contract. She reflects here on her progress so far and her plans for the rest of the year.



Why did you apply for the post of Curatorial Trainee (Collections) in the Museum Collections Unit at the University of St Andrews?

I had an enjoyable first career in administration but I’ve always loved history so I decided to change career to work in museums. My goal is to be a Collections Curator so I was delighted to begin this one year contract as Curatorial Trainee (Collections) in September 2016.

What steps did you take to change career?

I began by volunteering in museums in my spare time to try it out before taking the plunge to change career. Then I studied the MLitt Museum and Gallery Studies part-time course at the University of St Andrews from January 2014 to May 2016 while volunteering and doing paid work in museums. I really enjoyed the course and getting to know my classmates and the tutors. The field trips to various museums and galleries were fantastic too!

Can you describe an average working day?

My job is very varied so no two days are the same. Tasks range from dealing with enquiries from the public to counting spiders in the pest traps!bugle-photo-for-trainee-blog I enjoy cataloguing new acquisitions such as the bugle, pictured, that was created in 1989 to commemorate the university’s St Salvator’s hall of residence’s diamond anniversary.


I also enjoy spending one day each week during the summer season working front of house in MUSA (Museum of the University of St Andrews) and interacting with the visitors.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I have two projects that I am working on all year. Firstly, the University holds one of the largest collections of Communion tokens in the UK, around 12,000 in total, and I am cataloguing some of these. Secondly, I am cataloguing a wonderful collection of more than 400 shells, one of which is pictured here.


What about team projects?

I worked with Hannah, Curatorial Trainee (Learning & Access), on an exhibition and we are also working together on a project to provide new foreign language translations of gallery guides in MUSA.

Have you been involved in any other activities?

Although I am working in collections, I also have opportunities to get involved in learning and access. I gave a portrait tour to honours students earlier this month and I will give a talk at the Byre Film Club about dangerous museum objects in April. I wrote my MLitt dissertation on the topic of interactions between poets and museums because I love reading and writing poetry. So I have arranged a museum tour in poetry with a local poet at the Bell Pettigrew Museum this month and I will also deliver a poetry-writing workshop there in April.

Any final words?

I am really enjoying working in the Museum Collections Unit and I look forward to gaining even more curatorial experience over the coming months!



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