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Students take charge of museum for a day

Students Nicole Bramham (front) and Shauna Goldsmith (back), show museum visitors Denise and Adam Walter from Middle Herrington the Wallace the lion exhibit during the college’s takeover of the museum

Visitors to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens witnessed a mass ‘takeover’ of the venue by students involved in a novel cultural project. 

Dozens of Sunderland College students were given free reign over the museum for one day only as part of a collaborative venture between the two organisations.

The large scale work experience event, which involved 29 students and weeks of planning, gave students the chance to develop their artistic and historical knowledge as well as their customer service skills.

Students on a range of visual and performing arts courses were assigned roles from gallery guides and explainers to shop and event promoters in the build-up to the event, with students split into five groups and set different tasks to prepare them for the takeover.

As well as receiving full training from staff, the students – aged 16 and 17 – also conducted their own research and planning which included learning about the museum’s Picture the Poet exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery, setting up an interactive Toys Through Time display, arranging a Christmas card craft activity and selecting shop stock for a Christmas promotion for boys and dads.

Alix Graham, 18, a level two art student who took part in the takeover, said: “During the event I worked on a gift shop table with some of my classmates selling Christmas gifts. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to learn interesting facts about the museum while developing my employability skills. The staff at the museum were very helpful and made this a joyful experience for all of the students.”

The event was arranged as part of the national Kids in Museums’ Takeover Day which gives young people the chance to take on meaningful roles in museums, galleries, arts organisations, archives and heritage sites.

Jennie Lambert, learning officer for Sunderland Museums and Heritage Service, said: “Members of the public were delighted to have extra activities on the day including meeting Santa, making Christmas cards, having guided tours and object handling activities.

“All of the students gained confidence by the end of the project and many of them learnt new skills in public speaking and how to approach visitors. Some students took on extra responsibilities, for example dressing as Santa Claus, which gave younger visitors a magical experience. The teams put a lot of time and effort into their tasks, which was reflected in a professional and organised approach on the day.

“The museum would be happy to work with Sunderland College in the future to offer work experience to students, and would encourage students to join the museum’s new youth forum, helping us to plan events and activities for other young people in Sunderland.”

The work experience placement was arranged through Reed NCFE, which provides a free service to Sunderland College students, offering employability advice and helping them to find work placements and jobs.

Callum Allison, employment broker at Reed NCFE, said: “The opportunity provided for the students to takeover the museum for a day was very beneficial and it allowed them to experience what it’s like to work as part of an events team.

“Many of the students are looking to go into careers within events and performing arts and this allowed them to develop some of the required skills in order to gain a greater understanding as to what is involved in these job roles.

“It is important to give students the opportunity to work externally to the college, as interacting with customers and being in a real working environment is crucial to both their personal and career development.”

For more information about the college’s partnership with Reed NCFE and the services available to students, click here.

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