As a geography student, I have had the opportunity to experiment with a number of research methods. However, one method I had yet to try was that of archival research. During my placement at Egham Museum I needed to search the museum archives for detailed information about Runnymede’s history.
I found the research method to be quite lengthy, requiring much patience. First of all, I had to identify from records any items that might be useful for my research. I then had to locate them from the archive before taking detailed notes and photographs if they proved useful.
Despite some mixed results, the process was rewarding, providing detailed insights into the past. For instance, when I searched the archives for information about the Pageant held at Runnymede in 1934, I found a large collection of photographs showing all the different actors involved, the costumes and rehearsals. This gave me a real sense of the mood that surrounded the event, who was involved with it and just what a grand occasion it was.
My next task was to display my findings. I chose to create a slide show to run on a screen in the museum. Having divided my information into 4 key themes, I needed to condense the information down further and find suitable images to place with it.
Getting the balance right between text and images took many attempts. This demonstrated to me what a difficult process designing museum displays can be. I also had trouble at times finding suitable images for each theme. For example, illustrations of agricultural practices from hundreds of years ago were hard to come by, so I had to find ways to work around these problems.
Despite my research and creation of the display taking quite a lot of time to complete, I was proud of what I had created and felt a real sense of achievement upon finishing.
Overall, I have really enjoyed my time at Egham Museum. It has given me hands-on experience of what it is like to work in a museum. It also provided me with valuable information for my dissertation. I encourage other students like me, interested in heritage sector to try out such a placement as it really is a valuable and fun way to learn more about the sector and develop your research skills.