Takeover Day 2022 at The MERL

I always feel happy when I wake up in the morning and I remember that I’ll be going to work at The MERL that day.

Friday 18 November marks Kids in Museums’ Takeover Day, when museums invite young people to take over jobs normally done by adults. The theme of Takeover Day 2022 is wellbeing.

This year at The MERL, we have been thrilled to welcome a Ways into Work supported intern to our museum team. Ways into Work’s supported internships are study programmes for young people aged 16 to 24 who have an EHCP (education, health and care plan), combining studies alongside time in the workplace.

In this blog, our intern talks about her work at the museum and highlights how it is supporting her through the five ways to wellbeing. Through her words and pictures, here is her story!

Introduction

I study at Addington School and they have a programme called Ways into Work, which allows Addington students and all the other school students to find their way into employment by giving them work placements, introductions and interviews to prepare for adulthood.

What are you hoping to gain from being involved in Ways into Work, and why did you choose to do it at The MERL?

The reason I chose to do Ways into Work at the museum is because I’ve always been interested in history, art, and nature and The MERL combines all three of those. I’m hoping to get more people skills, like being able to help them if they are in trouble, and improving my communication and listening skills in general as well. And I also like to learn more about how a museum works, and how many different people are needed to keep a museum ticking over.

What are you hoping to gain from being involved in Ways into Work, and why did you choose to do it at The MERL?

I’ve done several pictures depicting everything I’ve been doing at the museum as part of my Ways into Work.

A coloured drawing of Friday Fledglings at The MERL.

The first one is Friday Fledglings and chicken care. In this picture I have included plenty of younger kids because Friday Fledglings is a group for toddlers and babies and we have them playing with bubbles, chasing each other, painting, playing with the parachute, and I’ve also got Charlotte (session leader) on the left-hand side telling them a story. And then there is me in the middle looking after the chickens and holding up an egg I have found.

Every child that comes seems to genuinely enjoy it. Of course they are a little bit shy at first, especially if it is their first time coming along, but I think the fact that they have all sorts of activities for them to enjoy, the fact that their parents are allowed to stay with them, and there’s just the general atmosphere that kids pick up on and they like it. I’ve been in charge of the arts and crafts activities. Every week Charlotte sets special activities for me to be in charge of. So there have been things like weaving, painting, stamping, things like threading, and also recently making special autumnal creations such as conker twirlers, and leaf pictures.

The next picture is showing my work in the conservation studio with Victoria.

The conservation studio.

It shows a window leading into the main studio and a table with Victoria and I am shown cleaning a book from the 1700s. The book is open at my favourite map which is of Africa. And it’s also got loads of things set out as well. All along the wall we’ve got post it notes showing everything that I’ve been learning like how to repair paper, make book cradles, and how to use a scalpel safely. My favourite task has been book cleaning. It was fascinating learning about the microscopic bits of dirt that can get onto the pages and where they tend to gather most, and also learning about the different pests that might infest a book as well. So it’s been good fun learning how to prevent all that and get the book looking its best for any visitors.

The next picture is my customer service and front of house one.

Front of house.

Whenever I do front of house I sit at the desk near to the entrance of the galleries and I help out any visitors that come through. I’ve met all sorts of people. My favourite task is showing the children how to do the trails that the museum has and giving them a sticker afterwards. They love it! I also help out with the café. Mostly cleaning tables and helping anyone out who needs it.

This last picture is my gardening one.

The garden at The MERL.

On Wednesdays I do special outdoor work with Cathy (Gardening Volunteer Coordinator) and the other gardeners. I am depicted picking grapes with Don and I also show various troughs I have been working on like this one. It’s full of green manure which is going to keep the soil fresh and healthy until next spring. As well as harvesting pumpkins, strawberry and tomatoes, I’ve enjoyed the harvesting the best. It’s very satisfying when you see the things fresh and ready to be picked.

This year’s Takeover Day is focusing on the important role that museums can play in supporting health and wellbeing. What impact has Ways into Work at the museum had on your wellbeing?

I always feel happy when I wake up in the morning and I remember that I’ll be going to work at The MERL that day. I almost think that I prefer it to being at school on the other days. I’ve met amazing people along the way and I’ve learned so much about museums. It’s been amazing!

When I first came to the museum, I was excited but mostly nervous because I wasn’t sure what the staff were going to be like. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the work there and I didn’t want to get anything wrong. I’ve found my footing now. I’ve made a few friends in the workforce and I’ve learned a great deal. I only occasionally feel nervous now, but that just goes with the territory.

How does your work connect with the Five Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Learn and Give)?

Friday Fledglings

Fistly, Connect. As well as connecting with my fellow colleagues in Friday Fledglings you can connect with the children as well, and the children can also connect with us and with their parents and carers as well. Secondly, Be Active because Friday Fledglings is always outdoors, whatever the weather. You do have to run about a bit to keep up with the little ones.

Conservation studio work

Learn. I’ve learned a lot of new things about conservation and how we can keep objects and books in the best possible condition that they can be in. And also Take Notice, because there are little things that you might not notice before and you might not be a hundred per cent sure of how to deal with them, but there are ways around it.

Front of House

Connect. Because you can connect with any visitors and they can connect with me, my fellow colleagues and also with each other as well. And also Give because you’re giving help if they need it, you’re giving them the best possible time they can have there.

Gardening

Be Active, because gardening is outdoors and it can be quite hard work sometimes and you need a bit of muscle. Next one is Take Notice because if you look closely at anything you might notice that they look different from when you see them from a distance like for instance if you see a bit of funghi on a leaf that you might not have noticed before from about two metres away. And also Learning because you can learn so much new about gardening every time that you do it like how to deal with any insect pests without using pesticides, how to deal with mildew, moss and also being able to identify any plants and how to tell the difference between them and weeds as well.

Would you recommend Ways into Work to others? And if so, why?

I would. Especially if you like either history, art or nature or all three in my case. The museum combines all of them like I said earlier and its always a lovely atmosphere in museums. You can always learn something new in a museum and make great friends along the way.

Why do you think kids should get involved in museums?

Well, up front they might think that museums aren’t terribly exciting like they might be boring, dusty, damp, and dark. Well it’s not that at all. Kids should go to museums because they can learn something new about the past. The past is a place of magic and intrigue, always full of stories.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to continuing my internship here and eventually going away with a really good skill set to enable me to be very well employed in the future.

Find out more

To learn more about opportunities to develop workplace skills at the museum, including joining our Youth Panel, please see our work experience and career skills page. To discover more about the museum’s health and wellbeing programmes, visit our Thriving Communities page.

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