Trying to Transform Museums one step at a time

By Matthew Jones, Transforming People to Transform Museums Project Officer

Now in its second year the Transforming People Project continues to work with community partners across Suffolk and North Essex to open the opportunity for anyone over 18 with a GCSE grade C in English or equivalent to apply and join their one- year museum traineeship programme. 

Nine traineeships are offered each year in Digital Collection, Retail, Exhibition and Design, Visitors services, Marketing and community engagement with the trainee completing a year’s work experience and an NVQ level 3 in Cultural Heritage.

Anyone who has been involved with recruitment for a museum vacancy will know that there is no shortage of applications from graduates, post-graduates and individuals with a solid background in Historical studies. The aim of this project however was never to exclude these applications but to reach out to individuals who do not come from “traditional museum backgrounds” and challenge both the applicants and the heritage sectors perception of who can work in the museum industry.

I, myself took over the project officer role last year and come from a background in SEN & Social enterprise work. As I am finding out, my last employment and my current do share some very similar factors that need to be in place for there to be a chance of success.

Support, as it is in so many industries, is primary to the success of this traineeship. Project supervisors share their time and expertise to talk to the applicants, show them around the museums and give a very human face to the project as well as supporting the successful applicant throughout the year. Staff also sign up to the mentor scheme where they mentor the trainees for the traineeship and beyond.

It is also the wonderful support from colleges, schools, community groups and local Job centres to signpost individuals from non-traditional museum backgrounds, support their questions and application process that has also led to a noticeable increase in enquiries and applications.

 In conjunction with this there have been modifications in the role descriptions and application forms, taster days and assessment criteria, all designed to make the whole process as accessible as possible.

For those that do not wish to work in the heritage sector their preference is their barrier but what this project is trying to do is to remove as many obstacles as possible for those individuals who always wanted to experience work in this sector but never believed they had the skills or the right background to do so.

Transforming People to Transform Museums Project @ Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Museum of East Anglia Life, Palace House – Newmarket and The Long Shop Museum is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Find out more next month when we will hear about the impact this project has had so far, and hear directly from the trainees themselves!