My Museum – Vicky Geddes

My Museum shares the experiences of our staff, volunteers and interns of working at Saffron Walden Museum. Vicky volunteered at the museum for 10 weeks over the summer of 2016.

“I volunteered at the museum once a week, from early July to September, to get work experience, as I’d love to work in heritage once I finish my degree. I was limited for time at the museum this summer as I have to return to university, but I hope I will be able to return to the museum at some point in the future.

I volunteered with Leah Mellors, the Collections Officer (Human History), working with the social history collection at the museum. My work involved going through boxes of objects and cataloguing them onto the database, then packing them correctly into their boxes and storing them in the social history store. While at the museum I worked through dozens of boxes and catalogued over 70 items onto the database! This process helps to give museum staff a more accurate idea of what is kept in storage and makes sure that objects are being properly cared for.

I am currently studying history at undergraduate level and I have a real love of social history and getting to grips with how people lived in the past. I found my work at the museum fascinating because I was able to interact first-hand with objects that people actually used in the past; for example, I catalogued a ‘grisset pan’, which is a kind of bowl used to melt animal fat to create candles in a technique dating back to medieval times. History in general fascinates and excites me, and being able to hold items in my hands brings history to life in a truly unique way.

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1920s metal toaster

As part of the project I worked on, I searched for interesting items that have been hiding in the museum stores so that more people can get an idea of how many fascinating objects are sitting behind closed doors. Some of my favourite items include a rare metal toaster dating from the 1920s and a toy sewing machine from the 1950s. As well as cataloguing them, I picked some of the most interesting objects, researched them, wrote a short history of them and photographed them: these will then be uploaded into the ‘collections’ section of the website.

My experience at the museum was absolutely fascinating, as I never knew what I would discover with every box I delved into. I’ve learnt about things I had never heard of before and actually got to handle them. So much is hiding behind the doors of the museum stores and I hope that once I finish my degree I can return to the museum to see what else I discover.”