Global Challenge 2014: Museum Victoria Internship: Blog 1

The Avenue/Nicholson St

The iconic Melbourne tram system. This would be my first challenge on arriving in the city: how do I make it from Melbournian suburbia to the city centre? Simply, it would seem, if only you could buy a ticket on board. Instead, my quest for Melbourne’s equivalent of the Oyster – the essential Myki card – would begin on foot. A good hour’s ramble down Lygon St, I was able to soak up what my neighbourhood had to offer; world cuisine, vintage clothing and the promise of great coffee.

Bright lights, big city. July brings early winter nights to Melbourne, so within a short space of time grey streets had turned into glittering Chinatown, and I was experiencing how much contrasting scenery could be packed into one place.

Blog 1, Photo 1

Whilst finding my bearings somewhat was an achievement in itself, I am happy to report that acquiring the golden ticket to Melbourne’s transport system was a simple feat, and by the end of my first day on the other side of the world I had absorbed a little of my surroundings, and ensured safe future travel to my ultimate destination, and the primary reason for my being here: undertaking an internship at Melbourne Museum.

On the whole I received a warm and inviting welcome, the city seemed to exude excitement, culture and a hint of mystery. So in an unknown setting, but a strangely familiar atmosphere, my first impressions tapped into a clear appreciation for the importance of food, art and culture – fingers crossed I would be accepted into the clan.

Queensberry St/Swanston St

Blog 1, Photo 2So obviously I couldn’t get it right the first time, overshooting my hop-off point by a few stops, but luckily after a friendly encounter with a local, I was told that I was only a couple of blocks from Carlton Gardens, the lovely surroundings in which Melbourne Museum can be found.

The Museum itself has a very impressive exterior. Designed by Denton Corker Marshall – also the architects of the recently built Stonehenge Visitor Centre in Wiltshire, as I was to find out later in the week over a welcoming cup of coffee with Dr Robin Hirst, Director of Collections, Research and Exhibitions – it’s a sculptural building that is nicely juxtaposed with the 19th century Royal Exhibition Building, which houses touring trade shows and artsy markets. The interior is just as remarkable – not only in the aesthetic sense, but simply because it is filled with friendly and helpful people, truly living up to my expectations of an Aussie welcome.

It wasn’t long before I was whisked upstairs by Dr Moya McFadzean, my supervisor for the duration of the internship, and I could begin to get an idea of the kind of tasks I would be getting my teeth into. There appears to be a perfect balance between developing exhibition ideas, scouring the online collections and seeing wider workings of the museum through meetings and discussions.

‘The Milkbar’ has become my temporary home for the next few weeks. The quirkily named room on the second floor provides me with a desk of my own, and therefore a space in which the learning process can begin. It doesn’t take long to realise that this is going to be a fantastic place to work, and quite frankly, I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Southbank Bvld/St Kilda Rd

‘Do we over-think our careers?’ This was the question to kick-off the Q&A session following the Careers Panel event at the National Gallery of Victoria. Five of the top alumni from the University of Melbourne guided us through the particular paths they had taken – some more straight forward than others, but each providing a number of twists and turns – which had eventually led them to a obtaining a coveted position at the NGV. Spanning roles in the corporate sector, the curatorial department for contemporary arts, editing of the Award-winning Gallery magazine, the curatorial department for international art, and in the research and grants sector, this high-flying bunch have managed to succeed in the arts and culture world, which is no easy task, and so of course, I was all ears.

What struck me the most was the transformative nature of a career in the arts. There were many entry points: academia, charities, volunteering, heritage, fine art – Biheng Zhang, a Research and Grants Officer, had too started out as a budding intern at Museum Victoria! But none of these ways of ‘getting in’ seem to have restricted movement across fields in any way, a reassuring feeling as I attempt to establish my own pathway into the arts and culture club.

Blog 1, Photo 3

A combination of story-telling and laughter, followed by some very sound advice, the panel was an informative and interesting experience. Something  that was made clear by all, was that no matter what had brought them to the arts, it was the relationships that they had built with people that kept them there. Dr Ted Gott, Senior Curator for International Art explained, ‘the wonderful thing about the arts is the extraordinary people it brings into your life…the diversity of people and ambitions’. He also pointed out the importance of nurturing these relationships, as, ‘you know, the people are lending to you as much as to your exhibition…’

In the quest to stand out and succeed in job applications and interviews, a little bit of luck never goes amiss. The panel acknowledged the elements of luck that they had experienced on their journeys, but they were careful to articulate that whilst ‘we all talk about luck, it’s also about discipline’, which has really stuck in my brain as to how much persistence is required to move up, or even get one foot on the arts ladder. So the two ‘P’s of the day are perseverance and people…we were told that working for long enough in the field has allowed for ‘picking up on people who are driven to make manifest their thoughts’ – I am aspiring to be one of them.

The evening was wholly inspiring, and the experience made me very glad that by chance I had met the director of the event a few days earlier, courtesy of a Museum Victoria meeting. I was lucky to be squeezed onto the list, and it just goes to show the value of networking, it is definitely not just what, but who you know.

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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