8 june 2010

Oxford's Museums and Botanic Gardens offer training opportunities

Arts | University

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded the University of Oxford’s Museums and Botanic Gardens a grant of more than £400,000 to fund placements for people who want training as education officers in the heritage sector.

The grant, awarded under its Skills for the Future programme, will provide anyone with a degree the opportunity to gain broad experience of working in the education departments across the University’s museums and Botanic Garden.

This new training opportunity aims to provide graduates from a range of backgrounds with an opening into the heritage industry. Although it is an important and growing sector, it is one that is often difficult to break into.

The HLF’s grant will fund 18-month work-based training placements, providing 12 trainees with experience of working with collections, volunteer management and understanding heritage interpretation. They will also use new media and technology, which plays an increasingly important role in the way museums and heritage sites communicate with their visitors.

Dr Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean, said: ‘The Heritage Lottery Fund’s continued support of the University of Oxford’s Museums and Botanic Garden is very important. We have, in Oxford, world-class collections; excellent museum and botanic garden facilities; and museum and botanic garden professionals who are leading experts in their fields.

'The HLF’s Skills for the Future Programme will enable us to offer great opportunities to trainees who want to work in heritage education in the future, and to continue our work in making the collections, as well as the teaching and research of the University of Oxford, available to the widest possible audience.

'The training will draw substantially on the innovative work of the Museums' education officers, currently supported by the Museums Libraries and Archives Renaissance programme to reinvigorate regional museums.’

Children of all ages learn about the historic scientific instruments in the Musem of the History of Science.
Children of all ages learn about the historic scientific instruments in the Musem of the History of Science.

The trainees will all undertake their training at three of the five different sites across the University: the Ashmolean Museum, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum, and the Museum of the History of Science.

Louise Allen, Curator at the Oxford Botanic Garden, said: ‘This project will enable us to provide wonderful training opportunities for people who want to work in heritage education, but who need to gain experience.

'We believe that training across several of Oxford’s collections will equip trainees with a good understanding of different types of collections and the skills required to communicate effectively with a wide audience. We are offering a bursary to trainees to cover their living costs while they undertake their placement, and hope to encourage applications from people who have the potential to become excellent education officers.’

Information about the first placements will be advertised in autumn 2010 on the University’s museums and collections websites. Trainees will begin their placements from spring 2011.

The award to Oxford’s project called ‘Keeping Heritage Alive!’ is one of 54 awards made through the Skills for the Future programme to organisations across the country.

This is the latest major pledge to support the museums and collections of Oxford as part of Oxford Thinking, the Campaign for the University of Oxford, which aims to raise a minimum of £1.25 billion to transform the University for many generations to come. The fundraising campaign, which celebrated the second anniversary of its public launch last month, has raised £875m to date.