Museum careers: My student placement at Culture Syndicates CIC
One of Culture Syndicates’ main aims is to make the museum and heritage sector more accessible for prospective employees. They are acutely aware of the challenges most people face when trying to obtain entry-level employment in the sector, and want to try to remove the barriers to make the industry genuinely more diverse and appealing. My placement at Culture Syndicates fit within this brief, and, during the 35 hours I spent there, I researched and analysed museum careers and ways in which sector-entry could be improved. This research is for a report which will be given to Culture Syndicates’ Board of Directors and will hopefully trigger change.
Over the last few months, I have conducted research to work out precisely why it is so difficult to enter into the museums and heritage sector. I commenced this research by looking at current career pathways, picking out information about what qualifications and experiences the job advertisements require, as well as about different starting points (e.g. postgraduate qualifications, internships etc). I subsequently found reports about the effectiveness of these current routes into the sector. Following this, I undertook a case-study analysis of the museums and heritage sector in America, to see what they do differently. For this case-study analysis, I wrote up information about US internships and created a Google Map detailing where postgraduate qualifications are offered across the country. Finally, I looked both at the reports which outline the effectiveness of internships in careers generally, and at reviews of the museums and heritage sector which detail recommendations for improvement.
My research led me to the conclusion that the current entry routes into the museums and heritage sector in Great Britain are exclusive and narrow, meaning that most people cannot obtain a decent career. Jobs require more experience than most realistically have, and even those who are suitably qualified are often turned away because of the sheer competition for employment.
I believe that one solution to this would be to increase the number of internships and related programmes as a form of sector-entry preparation. We currently have some museum internships in the UK (which show that it is possible), but we need more: this conclusion comes from the analysis of various research studies, as well as from the analysis of the example of the United States.
To implement this in practice, it would be necessary to push heritage organisations and museums to introduce internship programmes which are accessible to a broad range of people. This would not only aid the current problem with entering the sector generally, but would also help combat secondary issues in the sector. For example, it would help to combat a problem with diversity, which has been raised as a major issue at the moment, by reports such as the Mendoza Report, by encouraging those from all areas of society to consider this as a form of employment.
Summary of experience
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my placement at Culture Syndicates and found everything I came across in my research to be thought-provoking. I chose the placement because I wanted to gain experience in the museums and heritage sector, both to boost my chances of obtaining employment later in life, and to just learn more about the type of work. The placement certainly fulfilled both of those desires by enabling me to walk away with a full knowledge and appreciation of how the sector works and of the best avenues into the field. Now I need to put this knowledge to use by contemplating what the best career path would be for myself.
By Samantha Wilson, MA History at University of Nottingham
Find out more about training and employability opportunities at Culture Syndicates here.