A week in the life of Gallery Oldham

My name is Sam Robson and I’m an A Level student at Bluecoat School. I chose to complete my work shadowing at Gallery Oldham, as it is local to me and would provide me with the relevant experience needed to gain a place on a history degree course. Shadowing the Senior Curator Sean Baggaley has given me an insight into the life of working in a museum and the functioning of a museum.

Day 1

On the first day that I was at Gallery Oldham, I was with photographer Ian Beesley and poet Ian McMillan as they were working with the dementia support group. Ian Beesley was using the gallery’s own Big Big Camera to take photographs of the members whilst Ian McMillan was working to write a play which they then performed. I was helping to load the Big Big camera as each photo taken required a new slide to be loaded.

In the afternoon I was looking around the building site that is the old Library & Art Gallery. It was interesting to see how the building will change when the construction work is finished. After visiting the construction site I watched as Constantine – a firm of art handlers – wrapped up one of the paintings in the collection as it was heading off to Japan to be held in an exhibition there.

Day 2

On the Tuesday I was given a tour of the stores by Sean, which shows where the gallery holds all the objects which aren’t currently on display or in an exhibit. This was particularly interesting for me as a hopeful history student. In the afternoon Sean was in a meeting with members from the Henshaw’s charity for the blind and so I was listening as they discussed a future exhibition. I was also shown on this day how the collections computer software works and how the gallery has to catalogue each item that comes into the collection.

Day 3

On my third day of shadowing, members from the Oldham Photographic society came in to display their exhibition in the Community gallery section and so I was helping to unbox parts of their exhibition and arrange the cases where they placed parts if their exhibition.

In the afternoon I began looking for Oldham WW1 content as next year there will be an exhibition based around World war one and Oldham’s involvement in WW1.

Day 4

On Thursday in the morning I sat in whilst Sean had a meeting with the archives department based on the archives involvement in the new Oldham Arts & Heritage Centre. I then started printing off WW1 object images in the afternoon of Thursday which may be used in the exhibition next year to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the end of the Great War.

Day 5

In the morning artist Gil Mualem-Doran was putting up his Union jack flag in the foyer of the gallery and so I was assisting in the transportation of content related to this showing. The new union jack flag consists of countries from the UK’s cultural legacy and so this is an important project which helps create a sense of community.

In the afternoon I finished off printing the WW1 object images and grouped the images into categories e.g. art, Photography, Propaganda and put these into a folder.

Overall, I think that my work shadowing week at the Oldham gallery has been a successful one as I have enjoyed learning about the function of a museum and how the museum handles collections, and now have new ideas of what a career after a History degree might look like.