University of Cambridge Museums

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Arts Award: A career pathway into the arts

The Fitzwilliam Museum supports around 150 young people through Arts Award each year.

Sienna James will be the first candidate to achieve her Gold Arts Award, which is the highest level of Arts Award, a level 3 on the qualifications credit framework and holds 35 UCAS points.

The Gold Award requires young people to become arts leaders, project managers and self- evaluators. They are required to work alongside arts practitioners, gaining work experience in arts organisations. Sienna, already a living history interpreter, decided to develop her experience at the National Trust.

Sienna’s Gold Award speaks loudly of the opportunities available for young people within the museum and heritage sector. The University of Cambridge Museums’ Opening Doors programme supports apprenticeships, internships and work experience placements as well as volunteering. The Arts Award supports these initiatives.

Read about Sienna’s journey so far in her previous blog post

What happened next?
Sienna at IckworthI completed Unit One, my Final Piece was a series of authentically written and illustrated letters by my 1930s housemaid character, Ava Robinson. A large part of Unit One was my immersion into Living History for both background research and work experience. As this is a new topic for Arts Award I was lucky enough to receive lots of support from my Fitzwilliam Museum mentor, Lucy Sercombe. She was able to guide me in my approach and support me with her valuable heritage sector knowledge.

The Fitzwilliam has access to some fantastic opportunities for young people. I attended a University of Cambridge Museums Work Experience Taster Day which was very enlightening about potential careers and apprenticeships in the sector. They also run a variety of workshops which can be a great starting point if you are thinking about undertaking an Arts Award.

Curating an exhibit
Unit Two is all about preparing and running a public exhibit – this could be a drama workshop, a display of your photographs or a musical recital. However, with the help of the lovely staff at Ickworth House, I chose to compile a historical exhibit which is based at the National Trust property in Suffolk. Like the unit before, this display is largely focused on Ickworth and its rich history.

Jack Honeyball was the electrical engineer for the house for most of his lifetime. He started working there in 1916 and gained a British Empire Medal in 1976 for his diligent service. Sifting through the vast database as well as frequent trips to the records office helped me gain an understanding of Jack’s time at Ickworth. I based my exhibit on his life.

Deciding on the physical elements was a definite challenge for the display. In the end, I opted for a timeline summarising Jack’s life and also a manikin displaying the type of clothes he would have worn at work. These were supplemented by information boards on the research I had conducted. The building in which the display was housed was actually Jack’s old home. When the National Trust inherited the property in the 1950s, Jack became caretaker and so moved into Porter’s Lodge.

My Jack Honeyball exhibit

My Jack Honeyball exhibit

Fantastic news!
The display lasted for six days. However, at the end of the six days I was asked by the Visitor Experience Team at Ickworth if it were possible to extend this to the rest of the season. I was absolutely delighted and received some wonderful feedback from both the public and the staff.

So, if you want a day out this summer, why not visit Ickworth House in Suffolk and find out all about the amazing Jack Honeyball.

Creating the exhibit has really helped me to develop my curating skills and I feel that my confidence and communication skills have grown alongside. I can’t wait to start planning my next historical project.

A wonderful blend of topics…
This award has allowed me to explore a brilliant mix of subjects. As an avid writer, nothing could have been better than choosing creative writing as my original art form for Unit One. From attending inspiring Taster Days at the Fitzwilliam Museum to learning the technique of a 1930s dip pen to dressing a manikin in authentic clothes for my exhibit… I have relished it all. I think linking Living History interpretation has been the highlight though – who wouldn’t want to dress up in a housemaid’s uniform and spend a day travelling back in time?

If you love both history and art and are unsure how to combine the two within an Arts Award, don’t hesitate to contact the lovely and supportive Learning Team at the Fitzwilliam. You could start a fantastic journey.

My Arts Award is very nearly finished. All I need to do now is to reflect on the whole project and await the moderation. Wish me luck!

If you are interested in taking part in Gold Arts Award, please contact the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Education Department.

Lucy Sercombe, Learning Associate (Arts Award & Widening Participation), Fitzwilliam Museum


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