Work experience week at the museum

Last week Bethan came to do her work experience placement at Ponty Museum – here’s how she found it!

For the past five days, I have been carrying out my work experience placement at Pontypridd Museum, and it has been interesting to say the least. As a local who visits Ponty on a fairly regular basis, I was surprised at myself for never having been here before. I think it’s fair to say that a number of people my age are not even aware that this museum is here, which is a shame, since the amount of local history which can be taken from one visit is amazing. I thought myself fairly educated on the history of the Rhondda and surrounding areas, but a look around the gallery made me realise just how many stories I hadn’t been told.

When I arrived on Monday morning, I of course had to get a look around the museum to get an idea what was on display here before I started doing any work. I spent at least an hour walking around, following the development of Pontypridd from the construction of the famous Old Bridge, through the building of the Glamorganshire Canal and the start of Brown Lenox chainworks and then of course, the coal mining which was an integral part of the community. The museum also has displays on the Welsh Regiment and domestic, sporting and entertainment history of the area. There was also a temporary exhibit (there until the end of July) on the archaeology of Ponty due to the archaeology festival taking place, and this complimented the permanent exhibits as it offered a more detailed history of Ponty and the area, before the Old Bridge was constructed.

After being enlightened on some aspects of Ponty’s history, I could start doing some actual work! I’ve had a number of varied tasks to complete this week, and there hasn’t really been one of them which I disliked. I spent some time on the front desk, however not enough people visit the museum to make this exciting. People really need to be encouraged to visit this place, because I think many will be like me, and find out something new and interesting about a place they thought they had a good knowledge of. My time doing visitor observations had the same problem, and it’s difficult to decipher what it is people like about the museum when you don’t have large numbers of people coming here in the first place. Still, I was able to get some insight from this exercise about what other visitors enjoyed; which displays were interesting and engaging and which they glossed over.

I attended a staff meeting, which was quite interesting, since I got to hear about the plans and suggestions on what can be done to improve the museum and attract more visitors. I also got to hear about what was going to happen at the upcoming archaeology festival and fun day, which gave me some new tasks to do in preparation for this event. I researched and made models of prehistoric clay pots (a very messy activity, but fun nonetheless) and photocopied some sheets to be used on the day, including one activity page about the poos of the past, which I’m sure the children will enjoy.

Some of my favourite exercises were the twitter takeover I did for the museum and object marking. For the twitter exercise, I simply picked out my top 5 items on display at the museum, and have been tweeting about them this week! If you’re interested in what I chose, you can check it out on @PontyMuseum. Object handling was something new for me, where I helped to catalogue and label a number of items usually kept in storage at the museum. Most of the set I did consisted of mining artefacts, which I loved, because that’s one aspect of local history I can never get enough of (I’m very much proud of our mining heritage, despite the fact the collieries around here were closed before I was born).

I then did some more work with artefacts, this time looking at the ones which were on display. I picked a display case, analysed its contents and layout and thought of ways the display could be improved. After this evaluation, I thought up an alternative layout for the items and then wrote some new information panels. Once again, I was shocked to find out the history of the co-operative society (the subject of the display I chose) and the role it played to locals outside of its retailing, which was all I knew the co-op for. I also did some research into the Women’s Guild and was amazed at their work and the fact I’d never heard of the organisation before.

I finished off the week by uploading photos and artwork from the museum’s collection to the website History Pin  and also tagging this art on BBC’s Your Paintings site.

I can easily say that this week has been interesting and enjoyable and that my work experience has been beneficial to me. I’d encourage anyone to visit Ponty museum if you’ve never done so, and possibly even look into volunteering here if you can! You’ll be giving your time to an amazing cause, and helping to support our local history, so the museum can keep telling the stories of the people of Ponty to younger generations, or even the older ones who were in the dark about Ponty’s past. All the staff are friendly and with the help of the volunteers can answer any questions you have. And really, with free admission to this museum, it’d be a waste not to come and have a look around when you’ve got some time to spare.

If you’re interested in doing a work experience placement at the museum, please get in touch on our contact page.