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Life as a Placement Student with Dundee Heritage Trust: Conservation

Every year we’re super lucky to host placement students from Universities near and far. It’s a great opportunity for them to experience the world of work, and for the staff and volunteers to meet the future workforce and engage with new ideas and get support on key areas of their work.

These blogs are written by the students on the work that they carried out with us, and we hope you enjoy reading about the things they got up to!

If you’re a student or institution that is looking to do a placement, please do get in touch with the education team

In today’s blog, Kira shares more of her experience during her placement focused around curation and conservation.

As a ‘distance learning’ student, the majority of my learning takes place online. Although this has its benefits, you can imagine how excited I was to have the opportunity to undertake a placement with Dundee Heritage Trust (DHT) throughout March and April 2023 and put into practice skills I had thus far only read/written about. From polar exploration to life in the textile mills, the historical collections of DHT hold stories that are as fascinating as they are varied, and it was a privilege to work with the fantastic teams at Verdant Works and Discovery Point to get an insight into how this extensive collection is cared for.”

Accessing maps and plans

“I am a postgraduate student working towards a Master’s in Preventive Conservation – meaning I focus on researching and implementing ways to best protect historic objects from damage and degradation, so that they remain in conditions that will allow future generations to enjoy them, just as we can. My particular area of interest is in the conservation of outdoor collections, making Dundee Heritage Trust, the home of RRS Discovery, an ideal organisation for me to do this work placement with.”

“The RRS Discovery may have been built to withstand the cruel conditions of Antarctica, but, 120 years later, the dangers she faces are just as significant. Environmental damage exacerbated by climate change and the effects of old age are making themselves known, and it has been challenging (yet equally, incredibly exciting) to consider the place of preventive conservation on an object such as this; where measures to protect her from future degradation must be considered simultaneously with major repair and restoration works in the present.”

A unique view of the Royal Research Ship Discovery from the dry dock

“Alongside my work on the Discovery, I was also working on some conservation documentation for the jute machines at Verdant Works. The impressive collection of working machinery represents the jute manufacturing process from start to finish. The machines are run by skilled volunteers to demonstrate their movement and sounds to visitors. But of course, running historic machinery creates some difficulties for their conservation. Throughout my placement, I undertook research on approaches to conserving working objects and on the history of the Dundee jute industry, to ultimately put together the beginnings of a care and conservation plan for the machines. This allowed me to explore not only the complexities of conserving working industrial objects, but also how the jute machines embody the fascinating stories of the social history of Dundee.”

Caring for jute machinery at Verdant Works Museum

“Working with the team and spending time on the ship during my placement has been the most educational, thought-provoking, and enjoyable portion of my course so far. My time here has given me confidence in my future career ambitions, and I intend to continue working with industrial collections to help conserve the fascinating heritage of places like Dundee.”

Thank you once again to Kira for sharing her experiences with us and for becoming such a valued member of the team during her placement! We loved working with Kira, and wish her all the best for the future.

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