This summer, Alex joined us for work experience, read on to find out more about his time with us.
I Joined Arundells as a volunteer in June of this year. At this point, I had just finished my second year of studying Spanish and French at University. After discovering a passion for art during my first year of university, I started to think about career paths involving what I studied. Before going to university, I always hated art. I thought that because I couldn’t draw, I would never understand what makes paintings such as those by Leonardo da Vinci so famous. However, when I got to university and started studying History of Art, learning about the context of paintings and the different techniques used made me understand the incredible skill that famous artists have and the ideas and stories that lie behind paintings. But where would this lead me? My drawing skills were just about enough to draw a stick man. After deciding that I would like to work in a museum, I started looking at the pathway required to become a curator. In doing so, I discovered that as well as doing a master’s or even a PHD, most museums require you to have gained some experience either through previous work or through volunteering or internship. In addition, I needed to make sure that before I chose my future education path that working in a museum really was the right fit for me. On looking at volunteering opportunities in museums and heritage houses in Salisbury, I saw that Arundells was looking for volunteers, so I applied.
Volunteers have a vital role in museums and heritage houses. They are like the pawns in the chessboard, often working on the front line as the first and sometimes the only contact with visitors, used to test new ground and always trying to better the museum visitor experience. Their goal is to support the museum professionals and help them to achieve their vision. Volunteers are often used for day-to-day operations as well as for financial contributions; they strengthen the links between the museum and the community and help establish a cultural identity for the museum.
As a volunteer at Arundells as well as room stewarding, I have translated the information guide that gets handed to all visitors as they enter the house into French. This was a massive piece of work, more translation than a whole year of studying translation at university and required many hours of work at home as well as during the two days a week of volunteering at the house. There was a lot of very specific and very rarely used language, and this required extensive research into museums and houses in France to find French equivalents. In addition to translating, I have been helping Kate Walter the Curator at Arundells with some of the work she does. This included learning about modes and cataloguing items in the house, learning about preventive conservation (keeping the house and collection in its current condition for as long as possible), how to clean fragile objects in the collection as well as the carpets and drapery. I even cleaned one of the boats in the entrance hall; this had to be done with a lot of care and was a very slow process; however, there was an almost meditative aspect to it. Volunteering at Arundells has been very useful for me, giving me some experience and an understanding of the kind of work available in museums and the different skills required and gave me an idea of whether this really was a career that I wanted to pursue. It has shown me that as a curator in a museum, you are the boss, and you have to divide up your time and organise what you are going to do and when. It has also shown me that working as a curator, despite being a very varied job, requires a reasonable amount of time spent in an office, researching, recording the state of items, and even writing blogs.
This coming academic year, I am going on a year abroad to Spain to study History of Art and preventive conservation, among other things at Cordoba University. Then I will return for my final year at university.