Since September, I’ve been working with People’s Heritage Co-op for my placement on the Professional Skills module on my history course at the University of Birmingham. Now that my placement is over, it has made me reflect on everything I have done over the past seven months, and the progress that I’ve made in that time. When I chose this placement, I did so as it seemed like an opportunity to do something unlike any previous work experience I had taken, but I did not realise just how varied my work would be or how rewarding I would find it.
My first experience of my placement came in early September at the Wholesale Markets in Birmingham. I was completely unfamiliar with this site or the history behind it, and so it was a brilliant opportunity to engage with local history, helping the team at Friction Arts who were developing an exhibition to capture the unique heritage, stories and character of the Markets and the people who worked there.
|Photo: Natalie Mason
It was really great to not only be involved with this project at various stages, but to be able to see the exhibition develop, from collecting stories on the site, to selecting material to use, and finally attending the launch of the Wholesale Memory exhibition at the Library of Birmingham.
I was also very proud to be part of the centenary celebration with PHC and Birmingham City Council to commemorate the 1918 Representation of the People Act. It was wonderful to come together with various other heritage groups and organisations to mark such a significant event, and to meet so many great people, especially having written my previous blog
about the importance of celebrating women’s history.
The central aspect of my placement, however, was working with children at Paganel Primary School, helping to run their after school club working with their unique archive collection. Working with children was not something I was particularly confident about, but part of the reason I chose this placement was to confront that challenge – and I’m so glad that I did.
Since October, it has been so rewarding to work with a group of such enthusiastic young people, and as a historian, seeing them engage with local history week after week was really fantastic. We worked on a number of different activities, from creating an exhibition looking back at the 2012 Olympics, exploring aspects of the archives and the history of the school, as well as interviewing children and staff as part of our archive.
One of the biggest projects we worked on with the group and the school focused on Lodge Hill Cemetery and the First World War centenary. This began in November with a visit to the cemetery to mark the centenary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele, and culminated this week with the archive group leading years three to six in making flowers for a wreath as part of the Unremembered Project. It was great to see the confidence of this group develop over the year and now to be leading other children with this project.
When I began, I really had no I idea what course my placement would take, but looking back, I would gladly do it all again. It has been an amazing experience, and I have worked some great people, but, most importantly, this placement has allowed me to see first hand some of the vital heritage work that PHC and others do. I’m extremely grateful to have been given that opportunity, to work and to develop as an individual, and to everyone involved I would just like to say, thank you.