Work Placement: Habiba Desai

This week’s blog has been written for us by Habiba Desai, one of our work experience placements.  She writes:

Hi! I’m Habiba Desai an undergraduate student at the University of Huddersfield. I’m on a work experience placement at the Bradford Museums and Galleries.

How did I get this fantastic placement you ask?

Well in 2015 I volunteered for the Sneaky Peeks project at Bradford City Hall. I helped guide people around the tour which was brilliant because I met lots of people and everyone was so nice. Once I got into my second year at the University, I had to go out and find a placement and so I reached out to Penny Green, (the fabulous Volunteer co-ordinator and the woman who helped organised the Sneaky Peeks event) who offered me this particular placement where I could do writing and editing but mainly learning about the life of a museum and the types of jobs there were.

I can’t really describe what I do because everyday is so different. On my first day I was having fun exploring the museum grounds, the day after I was busy writing a newsletter and then later on I was interviewing staff members about projects they’d done. This really makes this whole experience more enjoyable because no two days are the same!

During my time here I’ve met lots of new and interesting people from different sites around Bradford. It’s really been an eye-opener because I’ve always assumed (as a lot of people do I think!) that Museums are just displaying objects. To the public eye we don’t really think about the ‘behind the scenes’ events of how objects come onto display. We are oblivious to the hard work and dedication of staff such as curator (social history) Heather Millard. Because of this I’ve learnt to appreciate the objects on display more due to all the complications and issues.

Whilst on my placement, I’ve been able to see the ‘secret’ location of  one of the stores where all the historic objects for the Bradford district are being kept. This trip for me was amazing as I study a module on the year 1837 in my course English Literature and Creative Writing and I’ve always been fascinated with historical objects and being able to see this warehouse with vast amounts of beautiful items really took my breath away!

From the Narnia style wardrobes (yes really!) to the smallest items, like a Colman’s Mustard tin and old school books. Everything was so well preserved including the clothing, from soldier’s uniforms to Lady Titus Salt’s dress. I also learnt a lot about the health and safety issues behind keeping such items and the correct and responsible way of disposing objects that were too damaged to be kept.

Being on this placement enabled me to work at another site I’d never been before – Cliffe Castle.

Cliffe Castle's Grand staircase
Cliffe Castle’s Grand staircase

This was a great opportunity for me as I met the assistant curator, Kirsty Gaskin who was wonderful and really enthusiastic about her job. Cliffe Castle is an amazing building and I picked the Object of the Month for the site which was the Edwardian Doll House. I learnt a lot about the history of Cliffe Castle and about the previous owners. I was a little freaked out when I saw the Victorian taxidermy collection! Dozens of glass cases filled with stuffed birds, rabbits, foxes and badgers. It was weird and wonderful! (Though a little haunting)

Habiba and her choice for object of the month
My choice for Object of the month

Overall my experience here with Bradford Museums and Galleries has been a real eye-opener. I’ve always been a little unsure of what to do after graduation but being able to work here has really helped me in what type of job I’d like and the way to get there, as there are many paths and the experience and skills I’ve learnt is something that I’ll never forget here at this wonderful place.

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