A Work Placement at Leeds Museums and Galleries

Eilis enjoyed a work placement at Temple Newsam House

As a history student at Northumbria University I was encouraged to undertake a two week work placement. I was intrigued to learn more about history related jobs, and after contacting the Leeds Museums volunteer co-ordinator I was placed at Temple Newsam House  – a Tudor-Jacobean mansion.

The team were extremely accommodating – on my first day presenting me with a two week timetable of assorted activities and projects, to provide me with an insight into every aspect of museum work, from curatorial research to house tours to shadowing visitor assistants.  

Le Tour De Musée:
On arrival I was given a project to complete in-between activities. The project was called ‘Le Tour De Musée’ and was designed to engage Leeds Museums with the Tour De France (coming to Yorkshire in the summer), by creating a bike tour of the nine venues and their picturesque surroundings. 

My task was to research and analyse any similar projects already in existence, taking the best ideas and adapting them for this project. Next I was asked to review ways to make the Leeds Museums and Galleries more bike-friendly, both physically and virtually – through changes towards the website, for example to include near-by cycle routes and also suggesting the installation of bike racks/cycle lanes in the venues. Lastly I was asked to design a mock up resource for the ‘Tour De Musée’, including cycle routes and scenic areas around the sites. 

A historical make-up workshop at Temple Newsam House

Another task which I greatly enjoyed was taking part in the carers group, a community group whose members are all the primary carers of a family member. I took part in activities such as tours around the house, aromatherapy, and workshops about the art of Tudor make up.

Museum Education:
I also took part in a ‘Tudor Dance Workshop’ that the museum held for local children and observed a school trip at Temple Newsam. In both workshops the children were given Tudor costumes to dress up in and enjoyed authentic Tudor dances and songs. The school group also had a lesson in the Tudor manor of dress and were educated about the house’s Tudor connections. 

In both situations they were so enthusiastic, engaged and intrigued by the historical aspects. It was a testament to the effectiveness museums’ work with schools. It was also wonderful to see the enjoyment these classes brought to the groups, and the way in which museums interact with the local community, its school and its organisations.

Research at Discovery Centre:
On two days of my placement I explored a more research-based approach to museum work and was based at the Discovery Centre and Leeds University Special Collections Archives. Here I was involved in research for the World War One Centenary exhibitions, accessing war time letters and newspaper clippings and selecting the best material – an experience which was extremely useful as it allowed me to access a different part of the museum industry and actively participate in the research process. 

This experience has been educational, insightful and extremely enjoyable. I would highly recommend anyone interested in a historical line of employment to seek a work placement with Leeds Museums and Galleries – not only for the invaluable experience and knowledge to be gained about possible careers in the museum service, but also for the friendly and welcoming staff who provided such an informative and gratifying experience. 

By Eilis Boyle, History, Placement Student, 2014.

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