Museums and Collections Award, University of Melbourne

Our U21 Museums and Collections Award gives students the opportunity to work for one month on a museum or collection project, at either the University of Melbourne or Lund University, Sweden. They are able to spend time with other museums and collections staff from across the university, including curators, collection managers, archivists and conservators in order to get a more comprehensive picture of what their work entails. This broadening experience enhances our student’s understanding of the different issues currently facing university collections.  It enriches academic studies as well as professional skills to enhance student's employability. 

Lucy spent 4 weeks at the University of Melbourne in the summer of 2014, we spoke to her to find out more about her experience.

Why did you choose to apply for this U21 event?

Given my interest in heritage management and my ultimate goal of working in the heritage industry, the Museums and Collections Award presented me with a unique opportunity to gain practical experience, broaden my skill set, enhance my CV, and be introduced to a new and contrasting cultural environment.

What was the best thing about your experience?

The variety of work I was given. I had four projects to complete in my month placement covering several aspects of heritage management – conservation, administration, archiving, project management/development, cataloguing, and reporting. Having such a broad range of activities to get involved in means I have a wider level of basic experience which is essential in achieving a job in the heritage industry. It also allowed me to understand where my strengths and weaknesses are, which has enabled me to tailor what jobs I apply for.

What benefits do you think you gained in relation to your personal development e.g. your confidence, competence, knowledge, future employability?

As explained in my report, my confidence has been given an immeasurable boost. The projects I was assigned to lifted me out of my comfort zone but made for a mind-expanding and horizon broadening experience. I now apply for paid positions and internships that I would have never considered myself suitable for before. My current employee has also witnessed a boost to my confidence stating that I am more independent and fearless to try a new approach.My skill set has increased dramatically. Before my placement, my skill set was based primarily on theory from my course and very basic practical elements I had been exposed to in volunteering. I now have a full roster of basic skills that I can adapt to most jobs in the heritage industry. This, in turn, has greatly improved my employability prospects.

How did your U21 bursary help you?

The bursary covered all expenses including flights, accommodation, food, VISA, insurance, and some cultural excursions.

What did you think were the most attractive things about the University of Birmingham when promoting it to other international students?

Quite frankly, it was the similarities to other institutions, not the differences, which made Birmingham so attractive for international students in regards to the Museums and Collections Award. The cultural collections held at each university are equally broad but unique. International students were also happy to hear that the standard of academic practice and research was as high in Birmingham as elsewhere in the world. Students want a professional and rewarding experience, and that is exactly what Birmingham offers.

Is there anything you would have changed about your visit?

I honestly cannot think of anything I would change. I know comments in these sections are sought after as it helps to improve the experiences by future applicants, but everything for me was unsurpassable.

What advice would you give to students thinking of applying for a U21 Award in the future?

The U21 opportunities are organised by the institutions you visit, but ultimately it is what you make it. Experience as much as you can while you are there, say ‘yes’ as often as possible, and be brave. Enjoy your time, learn about yourself, and understand that your presence in another institution genuinely makes a difference. You can sleep when you get back home.