University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

From work experience to an internship

IMG_2753My name is Hollie Drinkwater and I am currently half way through my three-month internship in the Reference Library of the Fitzwilliam Museum. I graduated with a BA degree in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London last July, and since then have spent my time interning and volunteering in museums in Cambridge and abroad.

I have always been particularly fond of the Fitzwilliam Museum, having frequently visited for study and leisure since a young age; however, my first experience of actually working in the museum came in July 2012, when I gained the opportunity to undertake a week of work experience. I have always been an arty, hands-on person, and having taken Art and Art History at A-level, I knew I wanted to continue on to study Art History at degree level, but I was unsure of where a career in the art world might take me beyond my studies. Having the chance to spend time exploring the departments and roles available in the museum while undertaking my work experience really gave me an insight into museum life; it opened my eyes to opportunities for a future career, and I very much felt as though this was somewhere I could see myself working in the future. I went off to London to undertake my Art History degree that September, with the hope of one day returning to Cambridge to pursue a career in the museums and heritage sector.

Now a graduate, I have been lucky enough to return to the museum this April to undertake the role of Reference Library Intern, and I have had a fantastic time working in the library so far. The primary aim of my internship was to catalogue the Reference Library’s music collection which was in need of thorough cataloguing and re-classification. I had never previously experienced library cataloguing before, so this internship began as a steep learning curve for me! But I have found it an incredibly valuable opportunity to gain new skills in database systems that I could also apply to other areas of museum’s collections and archives management. Having finished this project ahead of schedule, I am now moving on to work on the books and manuscripts held in the Antiquities Department of the museum, where, so far, I have unearthed some real treasures! Just yesterday, I was cataloguing a book on gemstones that was published in 1707 and was packed full of early 18th century engravings. I feel privileged to be able to work with such a rich collection and it is always exciting to come across these largely un-touched windows into the past.

While working here, I have also discovered how brilliant the museum is in providing opportunities for staff to learn from each other’s work and research, and I have found that everyone here is so welcoming and willing to share ideas. I am currently undertaking a Chemistry course alongside my internship, and it has been invaluable to be able to talk to colleagues in the conservation department about my studies, who are all very happy to help. I have also had the opportunity to gain an insight into the work undertaken in different departments here at the museum. I recently went to a colleague in the Manuscripts and Printed Books Conservation Department with an 18th-century book with a very fragile binding, and she kindly showed me how to make a box in which to store the book to prevent further deterioration. I feel that I am constantly learning new things here and I am very grateful for all that my colleagues have shared with me so far. I will be sad to leave the museum at the end of June, but I hope that I may be able to return at some point in the future.

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