Museum Futures

Museum Futures

My name is Jenny Cope and I am the Museum Futures Trainee at The Atkinson, Southport. The Museum Futures program is for young people 18-24 with an interest in heritage who haven’t experienced working in a museum or gallery. This year, I will gain experience and a level 3 diploma in Cultural Heritage. To share the experience of the traineeship and learn more about the experience through reflection, I will be writing a regular blog.

As someone who thrives on communication, the experience of starting this job during lockdown has been challenging. I was excited to meet my colleagues and fellow trainees and be able to share creative ideas. We have definitely all made the best of the circumstances we find ourselves in. I feel very lucky to have met people who have made this first month of my traineeship so welcoming and engaging. I would especially like to thank my Supervisor, Jemma Tynan, for being so easy to talk to and making me feel like a member of the team!

As in any job, I started off completing admin and getting to know my work environment. I did go into The Atkinson very briefly to pick up a work laptop but other than that, I work from home. I have learnt about proxy servers, a variety of online communication and file sharing tools. As well as getting used to the Outlook system, learning about branding and social media and meeting all my colleagues over video call.

Never having worked in an office before I have learnt a lot. Although I miss out on the small interactions that would help my productivity, I am surprised at the amount of work I manage to get done from home. Not being able to explore the building and collection, is another challenge. But exploring The Atkinson’s online content and the archive photos of the collection that I now have access to has been fascinating, I just can’t wait to get in there!

I have still been able to work with exhibitions. Using the selection of The Atkinson’s works that are on Art UK I was asked to curate an online mini collection for Valentine’s Day. The story I wrote around the collection was really inspired by one of the paintings and its title ‘Who Wins?’. It shows a flirtatious moment between a young man and two young women at the side of a ballroom. To me this title assumes the man as the prize the two women should be competing over. That just didn’t seem right. To me it was immediately obvious that the two women had a good thing going on before interrupted them. From there I could see the whole story and the other paintings started to click into place. At first, I had picked out ‘Roses’ by Marcus C. Stone as the beginning to the collection. I saw it as a lovely but generically romantic painting that wouldn’t spoil any of the story. I then found ‘A Lady with Roses’ by Raffaelle Giannetti where, to my surprize, sat my heroine holding the same roses! I realised that the white roses represented the theme of true love. This then brought new meaning to ‘A Rose’ by Henry Guillaume Schlesinger. With the addition of this theme, we can tell her rose is the wrong colour, even though she can’t yet.

I was encouraged to create a professional Twitter account to start online networking. After some introspection I realised I was feeling anxious about this because I don’t think people care. On some level it seems arrogant for me to post something for all to see as if anyone is interested. At the same time the fear of rejection people in the industry. What if I post things that I care deeply about and get a poor response? Then I’ll know for sure nobody wants to hear from me. And what if I fail to research a social issue before tweeting and get cancelled? I brought these concerns up to my supervisor, who took them seriously and set me up a meeting with Russell Dornan. He had really great advice for me. He made me look at social media a different way. It is a place to exist as yourself, to have fun and learn, just in public so others may find you. If I am authentic then I have nothing to fear from other people’ reactions, just like in real life. There is no obligation for my posts to be ‘good’. Tweets don’t have to be polished representations of me or my world view. If I post and share things I believe in and find interesting or entertaining, then the response from others is secondary. If I do get negative responses I can engage with them calmly and honestly. All I can do is try my best and keep an open mind to learn from people with differing experiences. If I keep my eyes open and try and find my people hopefully my people will find me.

I will never know what starting in this industry outside of lockdown would be like. Maybe I would have been overwhelmed, maybe I would have thrived. I don’t know if I would have had the time or opportunity to create a mini collection in my first few weeks. I loved the experience and I definitely want to do more exhibition projects like this this throughout the year. As well as that, I am looking forward to lots more training and getting more comfortable with the tools and systems now available to me. I have really enjoyed my first month and already learnt so much, I am so excited for the rest of the year and the projects I get to be a part of.

Written by Jenny Cope, Museum Futures Trainee

Posted on 7 March 2021 under General news, Museum

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