Meet the Trainee Curators!

Trainee Curators at Bodmin Keep

Who’s who?

Hi, I’m Sarah. I grew up in London and moved to Cornwall to start work at Bodmin Keep. I completed an undergraduate degree in English and then received an MA in Museum Studies. My curatorial interests lie in uncovering hidden histories and exploring issues within contemporary identity politics. I am keen to experiment as a curator by combining traditional object-based displays with artworks, bringing the Gallery and the Museum closer together.

Hi, I’m Katie! I’m from a village near Manchester and moved to Cornwall in January. In July 2019, I completed an undergraduate degree in archaeology at Durham, where I specialised in prehistoric Europe and textiles. In museums I am interested in accessibility for disabled visitors and staff as well as telling interesting stories through objects.

What do you do?

S: As Trainee Curators we look after the collections in the museum, both on and off display. We also undertake research for upcoming exhibitions and projects, assist with the installation of new displays, give talks and tours in the museum, and get involved with digital engagement projects. As part of our traineeship, we are given lots of training opportunities to help up develop our skills and meet other professionals working in the sector.

What have you been enjoying so far?

S: I’ve really enjoyed getting hands-on with the collections. We have a huge amount of work to do to make the objects in storage safe and secure. This requires unpacking objects that have not been stored in a way that meets current museum standards, and then repacking them using proper archival materials. I’ve also had the opportunity to clean some of the uniforms and weapons. Sometimes we come across some fascinating things that the public hardly ever get to see. The other day we found a picture frame made from a WWI soldier’s ration biscuit!

As part of our internship, which is organised and funded by Cornwall’s Museum Partnership, we have been able to meet three other interns at museums across Cornwall and attend training days as a group. Last week we went to London and were given tours and talks by curators from several national museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the Natural History Museum and the Imperial War Museum. It was a brilliant opportunity to ask questions and receive honest advice from a diverse range of museum professionals at institutions very different from ours.

Sarah cleaning museum objects as part of a project to rotate the displays.

K: I love the variety of the tasks we do; we’ve gotten involved in so many different projects, especially upcoming exhibitions. We’re moving the current music display to a new permanent space, then helping with a Territorial Army exhibition and the new permanent Lucknow display, so there’s a lot of logistics and problem solving! We’ve also delivered talks, including ‘Weapon’s Through the Ages’ and a ‘Curators’ Curiosities’ talk during February half term. I enjoyed researching my object (a poem by Rudyard Kipling printed on a silk square), getting to explore its history and interpreting this for the public.

As well as the main internship training, we’ve also been invited to ‘Citizen Curator’ sessions, including a fantastic day at Wheal Martyn. We learnt about different ways to present objects, such as; through humour, music and poetry, and how to make museums better for disabled visitors, by asking them what they need rather than assuming you know.

Katie takes the saying ‘two heads are better than one’ perhaps a little too literally.

So what’s next?

S: I have lots of exciting projects in the works that I can’t wait to share with our visitors at Bodmin Keep. I have been researching the history and impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the army for an upcoming display. I’m also organising some artwork loans for our September exhibition called Island Fortress, which is about Britain’s WW2 coastal defences. I recently participated in a podcast which has just been released for LGBTQ+ history month. You can listen to me talk about exclusion and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the army on our latest podcastGay and in Uniform, and you can read the blog I wrote on why LGBTQ+ history is so difficult to find in our museums

K: One of my projects for this year will be a fashion exhibition this summer, using the uniforms in our museum. I’ve only just started working on it, but I’m excited to find interesting stories to show visitors. I’ll be delivering talks on International Women’s Day about Emily Hobhouse, a Cornish woman who fought for peace and the right to vote. We’re also creating a video based on our ‘Curators’ Curiosities’ research, for people who missed our talk in February.  

Katie and Sarah at a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London in February.