Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Windermere Jetty – Toby Parsonage

Exterior view of Abbot Hall, Kendal

Exterior view of Abbot Hall, Kendal

I first applied to the heritage work placement scheme because it seemed like a great way to get some museums experience, without needing the time or money a full-time internship would require. For anyone who’s wondering whether this kind of a career’s right for them, it’s a chance to try it out in a supported environment, giving up as much or as little time as you can offer. I applied for more than one placement, but got my first choice, the ‘Tales from the Jetty’.  Though the placement was ‘officially’ run by the Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories, it’s still under construction, and so instead I was based at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery (both are run by the Lakeland Arts heritage organisation). I chose the placement for the location, in Kendal, in the Lake District, but mainly for the content of the work. In Kendal, though, my brief was to create accessible (but in-depth) research profiles of prominent individuals who had strong personal connections to Windermere, and subsequently helped to boost its tourism trade. I felt this would let me do what I’m good at, and also would allow me to do something the centre would get some long-term use out of after my placement ended.

This said, my placement went so well that it actually hasn’t come to an end – I’ve arranged to stay on and help out when they need me next year. The project I was working on involved providing content and research profiles on authors such as Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome for the Windermere Jetty, and more may be needed further down the line. The research I did will be converted into voiceover scripts, and explain the stories behind the exhibits when the building opens. My work involved working with others as well as researching alone, managing my time and schedule, juggling a separate workload from my university commitments, and I also learnt to pitch my writing at a level suitable for both adults and children, while striking a balance between informative and too much so. These are all CV-worthy skills, of course, but also things I got to do naturally, in an enjoyable, low-pressure environment, with plenty of support.

Though Kendal is a little further away than some of the other placements, it was absolutely worth the journey, and my supervisor Helen was flexible with our contact hours, ensuring getting out there was never an inconvenience. I was also able to fit my placement work around my studies, adjusting my work and hours there when I had university deadlines and doing more in slower periods, so that thanks to their understanding, it never became too much to handle all at once. When I became ill and missed some time, they were great, and allowed me to take as much time as I needed before picking it back up.

Overall, I can’t recommend the scheme enough – I had a great time, and got to see what museums work was really like. All our travels costs were refunded, so I got some great CV and life experience, and the whole thing cost me nothing but a few hours I might otherwise have just wasted. There’s really nothing to lose, and everything to gain – this was one of the best things I did this year, both for the experience itself, and for my future.