Benedict graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in History in 2010, and followed this with an MA at the University of Leeds’ Institute of Medieval Studies where his research interests were the cultural and religious history of marginalised groups and the public presentation of medieval history. He volunteered at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre and the Yorkshire Archaeological Society before joining York Archaeological Trust as a Handling Collection volunteer at the JORVIK Viking Centre in 2014.
What I hoped to achieve at the outset
One of my main goals at the outset of my internship was to gain experience in the building and maintenance of partnerships with community organisations and other external stakeholders. I was also hoping to gain experience in aspects of museums that I was unfamiliar with, namely interpretation and evaluation.
Another aspect of the work that appealed to me was the opportunity of working on projects that broadened access to museums and collections to non-traditional museum audiences and to individuals with specific access needs that might act as barriers to engagement.
What skills I hoped to learn at the outset
I was hoping to develop my communication and presentation skills in delivering content in accessible formats to a variety of audiences. Aside from developing written presentation skills, I was hoping to have the opportunity to produce multimedia content presenting work done with community partners. I was also hoping to extend my experience in design and presentation of exhibition content.
I was also hoping through working with a range of community groups to develop skills in partnership building, working with diverse community stakeholders and participatory engagement methods. I was also hoping to gain experience in supporting volunteers; as a previous volunteer, I knew this was an area in which the Trust was particularly strong and would be an excellent learning opportunity.
From a knowledge viewpoint, I expected to extend my knowledge of archaeology, collections management and interpretation, and community engagement and audience development methodologies.
What I have achieved to date
I have interviewed members of the public and participants from YAT, governmental and non-governmental agencies for the Waterproof Memories project to produce an oral history of the 2015 York floods. I have also developed a robust archival standard for data created by this project and for future oral history projects that the Trust may produce.
Building relationships with partner churches across Yorkshire and the Church Conservation Trust, I have guided the Church Explorers project to produce a program of more than twenty churches for Summer 2017. I planned and organised speakers for a training event and produced training materials to further the aim of this project of capacity building in our church partners.
I assisted with the training of volunteers and the research and production of supporting materials for the Volunteer Object Handling collections during the relaunch of the JORVIK Viking Centre. I also worked with the Head of Volunteering and supported volunteers during the 2017 Viking Festival.
I produced content for the Landscapes of Remembrance exhibition at York Castle Museum, showcasing the work of this project. I also assisted with the exhibition design and installation, as well as conducting a significant proportion of the evaluation work done on the exhibition, focusing particularly on accessibility.
I have worked on the planning and design of the Trust’s next oral history program, Coppergate Memories, conducting research into the dig using archive holdings at the Trust and externally. Synthesising this research with research on oral history methodologies successfully used in Britain and the US, I have designed a methodology for the conduct of this project and suggested research questions and outcomes.
I have worked with the marketing team to produce web and print materials promoting multiple community engagement projects, providing both written copy and input on design. I have also had the opportunity at community events to directly engage with members of the public, representing the Trust and promoting the work done by the Community Engagement team.
What new skills I have learnt and what skills I have improved
I have received training and developed skills in Oral History, an area I have never before had an opportunity to work with. As well as interviewing, I have expanded my archival skillset to include working with digital media.
During the launch of JORVIK 4 I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of archaeology into environmental archaeology, a field that was very new to me, as I assisted in training and accompanying materials for the Coppergate Environment handling collection.
I have had the opportunity to develop my skills in producing written content by being required to write for a variety of purposes and audiences. I have also had some opportunities to evaluate my work in a formal way through the evaluation work done on the Landscapes of Remembrance exhibition.
How the internship has benefitted my career so far
My skillset has been greatly broadened through working on such a diverse portfolio of community projects that have required a variety of inputs from myself. I have gained an understanding of work done in community engagement, community events, interpretation and volunteering. I have gained understanding and experience in project planning, implementation and evaluation.
All these are skills that I believe have greatly enhanced my employability and opened up a wide range of possible positions in the museums and heritage sector that I could pursue. I also feel that working in the organisation whilst it was engaged in such a major project as the reimagining of the JORVIK Viking Centre and having the opportunity to observe this work up close has been an incredible opportunity from which I have learnt a lot.
What I hope to learn in the next phase
I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue expanding my archaeological knowledge, particularly in the work I will be doing with ceramics as part of the Tang Hall Big Local Archaeology project.
I am hoping to be part of projects that expand access to people with specific access needs, and increase my knowledge of accessibility evaluation and methodologies for expanding access to attractions and community events.
As multiple projects currently underway move into the delivery and outcome stage, I also hope to have the opportunity to continue developing my skills in evaluation by considering project success and impact.
What I want to improve in the next phase
Although happy with the work I have done so far on the oral history projects, I believe I have significant room to improve my interviewing skills and continue to reflect on ways I can do this. I still have limited experience in working with children and look forward to family events over the summer that will give me the opportunity to remedy this.
How I would like to use the learning in my future career
After this internship, I would like to pursue a career in a community focused interpretation role. I intend to continue using the evaluation-centred approach to project design and implementation in whatever roles I take in the future. I would like to continue using oral history methods in my future career, as I find this a particularly rewarding and participatory approach to outreach.
I also hope that my experience in working with volunteers so far, and any I may gain going forward, is something I can put to use in the future. Finally, I am certain that whatever the future holds for me, the experience of partnership working, liaising with other organisations, and building projects that satisfy multiple stakeholders as well as the local community will be invaluable.
If the internship has given me new ideas about my career
When I began this internship I had less understanding about how rewarding and productive community-led projects could be. Having now had the experience of this internship, I look forward to exploring new possibilities for me to be part of participatory community work and feel that in the future I could take this approach into a variety of different fields, from charitable work to academic research.
If the internship has clarified or enhanced my ambitions
This internship has definitely made it clear to me that my particular talents and interests make me well suited for a career in community engagement and interpretative public presentation of archaeology, history and heritage. I look forward to pursuing this course in my future career.
How I think my internship has benefitted YAT
I think my approach to acquiring new skills combined with the knowledge and background I bought with me to the position has made me a versatile resource for YAT. Having me in position has enabled YAT to pursue new directions in Community Engagement which may otherwise have been difficult due to limited resources, and some of this work has great long term potential for furthering the Trust’s aims.