Cat Tucker has recently completed an internship at MMU where she was based within the Equality and Diversity Team. Cat was one of the co-curators of the exhibition, ‘Are we there yet? 150 years of progress towards equality’ (September – November 2015), and in her post she shares her experiences of being an intern.
When I applied for the role of Equality and Diversity Intern, I didn’t entirely know what I was getting myself into. I was twenty-three and like many other twenty-three year olds, I was stuck in a constant state of existential dread because I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I “grew up”. A combination of luck and good timing landed me the Equality and Diversity Internship but I had no idea just how perfect it would be until I started.
It soon became clear that the main purpose of the internship was to help put on an exhibition in MMU Special Collections about how far equality has progressed over the last 150 years. Being able to do a role that showed the university’s’ commitment to equality and diversity was important to me but I was also attracted to the creativity offered by the role. It was great to know that I would be using the skills and knowledge that I had accrued whilst studying English at MMU.
During my first week, I was able to attend the MMU staff fora meetings (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT); Gender; Race; and Disability). It was great to hear how excited everybody was for the Special Collections project. Everyone was quick to offer suggestions and ideas about what could be included. We also formed an exhibition group and we met up on a semi-regular basis to discuss the progress of the exhibition. Everybody was so nice and encouraging and it was great to hear everyone’s thoughts about my suggestions. It was clear from the start that the exhibition was not going to be comprehensive of everything that happened. There was just so much that could be included. We instead opted for a broad overview of the things, particularly diversity in children’s books, key events and changes in legislation.
My first duty was to collate materials and resources that we could use to display. To do this, I became familiar with the collections and spent time looking through to find the perfect object to use. It was great to be able to work so closely with such a vast and interesting collection. Having studied a module in children’s literature at university, I was particularly interested in the children’s collection. I enjoyed looking through the shelves and being hit by a wave of nostalgia every time I came across a story read to me as a child. To this day, I still have a strong interest in children’s literature. I am especially interested in current campaigns that are voicing the need for more diverse characters in children’s and young adult books, for example, the We Need Diverse Books campaign.
As well as finding materials in the Collections, I was also able to collate materials from outside organisations such as the People’s History Museum and the Ahmed Iqbal UIlah Race Relations Resource Centre. It was so great to be able to spend hours riffling through their archived materials in order to find the perfect objects to display. I looked a lot at anti-deportation materials from the 1980s and saw badges that said ‘No One is Illegal’ and other phrases that are instantly recognisable today as countries campaign to open their borders to Syrian refugees.
After all the material had been collated, it was clear we had too many exhibits. We had to refine and be selective about what made it into the exhibition. I worked with the exhibition team to choose the most suitable exhibits and make sure that the exhibition would work. After this came the huge task of getting all the writing done. There were the panels, pamphlet and the labels. I wrote a label for every single item in the exhibition (136 items to be exact). This took a long time but I enjoyed it. It was exciting to write about something I cared so much about and to use the skills my degree taught me.
This role has provided me with a number of skills, which I can take onto any future roles. It has given me a much clearer idea of what I can do and how I can practically use my degree skills in a job. The staff have been amazingly helpful and pointed me in the direction of many useful resources that will help me with my job search. I still do not know exactly what I want to do when I “grow up”, but I have certainly found an area that I enjoy working in and have a much clearer idea of career paths and options.