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UCL Culture Blog


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7 awesome months plus 1 day at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

By Debbie J Challis, on 28 February 2011

From August 2010 to March 2011 I did an Internship at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. During that time I did many different things for the Petrie. One of my last jobs is it now to write about my experience and let other people know what a great place the Petrie Museum of Archaeology is.

To start I would like to introduce myself first. My name is Katrin and I am a German student of Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. I was always very curious about museum work and decided to take a holiday semester to do an Internship at a museum to see what is going on from the professional side. I had never worked in a museum before and never heard of the Petrie Museum until the day one of my Professors in Berlin highly recommended me there for an Internship. That is how, luckily for me, one thing led to another and I was hired as a “special project administrator”.; soon I could find myself in the middle of the Petrie world (or how my supervisor Debbie would call it “in the middle of Madness”).

When I started working there the Museum was closed for a couple of weeks because of some refurbishments so my work place was mainly the office. My first job there was to do scans of papyrus for an online Project. The scanning was pretty exciting for me as it was the first time in my life I came so close to ancient Papyrus. Not many people can understand the feeling to leave work feeling happy and relieved to not have broken anything. All the while I was doing the scanning I was humming very quietly the theme melody of Indiana Jones, which made me feel a little bit more like an adventurer…

Another job I did for the Museum Manager, Tonya Nelson, for instance, was to create a spreadsheet of the museum figures and of the objects which are on loan and then updated them regularly.

The jobs which usually kept me busy at the office (and I guess everyone else too who works in an office) included typing up notes (which reminded me of reading hieroglyphics every now and then…), to collect email addresses for the mailing list, to inform magazines about the future events of the Museum, to do copies…. the usual office stuff. Every now and then I had the pleasurable experience of being sent out of the office for special missions, like dropping off leaflets from the museum or picking up things for the museum. Thanks to these jobs, I got to know sides of London I would have never seen!

When finally the day came the museum reopened in September I helped Debbie Challis, who is the Audience Development Officer, with the events that were going on. This job mainly included setting up the Museum, Welcoming people at the entry, taking care of the drinks (one of the most important tasks) and to take care of the Evaluation.  At family events I also took care that little humans did not hurt themselves with scissors.

Every now and than I also had to help out Professor Stephen Quirke who is the Curator and Susie Pancaldo who is the Conservation Manager. These jobs included for instance to write a list for the current location of the objects, to help out with moving the objects or to do some research in Professor Flinders Petrie’s excavation diaries.

Tthe work I was doing at the Petrie Museum opened my mind about museum work. Also, looking over the shoulders of my colleagues was inspiring and to see how the Petrie Museum uses modern tools like the Iphone or the iPad and brings computer projects like iCurator or 3D Encounters into being was very interesting. Just to mention a few projects.

At the end I can just say that I feel ashamed for not knowing the Petrie Museum before. The time at the Museum was a great and eye opening experience that helped me to make decisions for my plans for the future concerning my archaeological career. I can just recommend everyone who is interested to learn from a very modern Museum to apply for an Internship at the Petrie Museum or at least to have a look at the wonderful collection.

Thanks to everyone who works at the Petrie Museum for the fantastic time. I just hope at the end that I don’t break anything on my last day!

Katrin Swientek

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