My name is Isobel Greathead and I have done a year 10 work experience placement with the Birmingham Conservation Trust. With it only being a few months until the Newman Brothers at the Coffin Works opens to the public in the Jewellery Quarter, everyone on the team has been incredibly busy. So, it was a perfect time for me to jump on board with the project!
I spent two of the days in the office, mainly working with Marie. It was brilliant to see how the Conservation Trust works behind the scenes. Some of the tasks I was set involved giving feedback on the website, researching how to involve younger people in the Coffin Works project and planning different events that could possibly be held at the Works in the future. Seeing how everything is run from a different perspective really gave me a wonderful insight of what it would be like working in heritage and conservation and how to engage people with the project.
On Tuesday and Thursday I spent the day at the warehouse with Sarah and a new volunteer, Gemma. It was amazing to see all the artefacts that will go on display in Newman Brothers. There were boxes and boxes of coffin handles, shrouds, plaques and various other objects. On Tuesday I made about 50 acid-free cushions. They are sheets of bubble wrap covered in an acid-free tissue paper. They will be used to pack the artefacts into boxes so they can safely be transported to the Works. On Thursday I spent the day cleaning quirky objects such as a 1940s medical kit, a bright red set of scales and an old iron die. I got to use a conservation vacuum cleaner and special brushes, for delicate and fragile items, to ensure they were dust-free and ready for display to the public!
I spent Friday, the final day of my placement, with Suzanne. In the morning we went to a meeting to discuss involving University College Birmingham students with other projects in the Jewellery Quarter. It was interesting to see the other opportunities you have when working with the Trust. It gives you a chance to work with a wide range of people from all different places who are brought together due to conservation and heritage. We then went to the Newman Brothers Coffin Works site. I haven’t seen it for four months so it was brilliant to see how it has evolved and is getting ready for opening day. It looks fantastic! There is still quite a bit of work to be finished but it will definitely be worth it for the end result.
I had a fantastic week working with the Birmingham Conservation Trust. I worked with lovely people and I am so grateful to everybody who helped me and gave up their time to allow me to have the best experience I could have had. I loved it so much that I don’t want it to end! As I had such a wonderful time I am hoping to do some extra volunteering work with the Trust in the near future – I don’t want to say goodbye!