Case study

Collections care assistant — Alana Edgeworth

Having completed a museum traineeship, Alana now works within the curatorial team, creating exhibitions and displays, and caring for the museum's collections. Find out more about how the traineeship has helped her to develop her knowledge of museum practice

What did you study?

After completing my A-levels, I applied for a Transforming People to Transform Museums traineeship. As part of the traineeship I completed an NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Cultural Heritage, which allowed me to develop skills in community engagement and museum practice, as well as heritage-based knowledge and business development skills.

How did you get your job?

I started at the National Horse Racing Museum (NHRM) as a community engagement trainee in 2019. Upon completing the traineeship, I was offered a full-time position as a museum assistant, recently changing my role to collections care assistant.

What's a typical working day like?

In the morning I check the temperature and relative humidity (RH) levels in the galleries, taking the best course of action if there are any abnormalities, e.g. adjusting radiators, closing blinds or increasing the humidity within an area. Depending on the programming schedule, I may install or deinstall an exhibition. I also manage collections volunteers who come in weekly to help better store and document our collection.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I find that I am always learning new skills that I can use not only in my role, but also in other areas of my life. For example, I wasn't familiar with DIY skills and using design software before starting at NHRM, whereas now I am much more confident.

What are the challenges?

As a smaller museum, funds can be limited so it can be a challenge to execute ideas. However, this has its positives as it means that you have to be resourceful with what you have available, which often leads to more creative ideas as well as recycling materials.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Over the past year and a half, I have taken on more responsibility, such as designing exhibition panels and labels, installing/deinstalling exhibitions, developing my understanding of museum loans and broadening my knowledge of collections care. I have learned how to use a collections database, which has provided me with the tools to document objects, and to research and monitor the whereabouts of an object.

Over the next few years, I would like to deepen my understanding of collections care, specifically integrated pest management (IPM), environmental monitoring and loan management.

I have recently registered to undertake Associateship of the Museums Association in order to broaden my knowledge of the museum sector through a continuing personal development (CPD) plan. As I don’t have a degree, I would like to develop my writing skills as I believe this would help me to write reports and funding applications.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Say yes to opportunities when they arise. This will push you out of your comfort zone and help you to learn new skills. Also, network with others within the sector as they will be able to provide you with advice and new ideas. If a job comes up, they might approach and encourage you to apply.
  • It's a very practical/hands on role so be prepared to be away from your desk for long periods of the day.
  • From my own experience, I have found that a degree isn't necessarily needed to work in museums. I've learned a lot through directly working at the NHRM, which I may not have learned otherwise. Although there are lots of skills that you learn from having a degree, this shouldn't be the only pathway into the heritage sector.

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