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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Guest Blog: Swansea University Heritage Skills Placement, Sean McGrevey

Sean with 3000 year old coffin of a lady musician
Starting from the 24th May 2016, I’ve been involved in a work experience programme at the Egypt Centre, located in the Taliesin building on Swansea University’s Singleton Campus. The Centre operates as a learning facility for young children to come to, ranging from various ages and venturing from numerous primary schools across England and Wales. My work experience was part of a placement initially organised by the College of Arts and Humanities to give me a chance to work in the heritage sector and understanding the daily operations of a rather unique museum. Also, the placement is meant to give me a platform to pursue other heritage work in the coming years.
            On the ground, the Centre is run by a fairly small core set of staff compared to other larger museums, and then the galleries are largely shadowed and assisted by a large volunteer base. This allows as many people who would like to get involved in heritage work to get a taste of life in the field, and for those who volunteer their time consistently; this format allows working in teams that are never the same and meeting a large amount of people from different backgrounds and walks of life; which is largely rewarding. I have engaged in customer service, shadowing various activities, even conducting a mummification activity on my own.
            The galleries themselves are fascinating to me, as someone who has not studied Egyptology or any ancient civilisations in any depth. The various coffins, mummified animals and precious gemstones form parts of the Houses of Death and Life where the exhibits are held, allowing a contrasted insight into daily Egyptian life and evolving patterns over the various periods. For less intellectual heavy material aimed for younger audiences, the Centre offers a mummification activity for children to wrap their own (doll) mummy, and an enlarged board for the game of Senet, which is similar to the game of Snakes and Ladders. Whilst these two examples are fun for the children and allow them to be interactive, they serve as an accurate representation of things ancient Egyptians would do in their time period, following on from the educational aspects the Centre aims to provide.
            The main plus for the Centre, as stated at the beginning, is its unique nature. The Centre’s outreach to local schools and the wider community differentiates the Centre from larger national museums which often times let the reputations of the museum itself attract the visitors with little work. The Egypt Centre’s volunteers having exposure to working with children provides valuable experience for those who wish to go into teaching or other working environment with younger people.
            To conclude, the Egypt Centre’s charm is its laid back but professional atmosphere and its dedication to the education of young students with a keen interest to learn. The various workshops, gallery exhibits and games allow variety of what can be seen and what can be done, and over the course of the two weeks I have been a part of the Centre, there has not been a day where I have not learnt something new or discovered something previously missed. This is important to attempt to know what it will be like should I work in a national museum in the future; if I am discovering new things every day in a smaller museum, what will it be like in a larger, national museum? This is an exciting prospect, and I’m happy for the Egypt Centre to have given me this insight.

Sean McGrevey, MA in Modern History Student, Swansea University.

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