As I approach the end of my placement with Imperial War Museums (IWM), I have the opportunity to reflect upon some of my professional experiences in the time since starting this role in November 2021. As a Partnerships assistant in the Second World War and Holocaust Partnerships Programme (SWWHPP), my responsibilities have been consistently varied, which has helped stimulate the development of a range of professional skills, many of which I believe will be invaluable in my future career.

In this blog, I will outline some of the highlights from the past months, including my work on events planning, project coordination and a personal highlight of coordinating IWM’s contribution to the BBC’s Art That Made Us festival.

Since December 2021, one of the most important responsibilities of my role has been supporting the delivery and tour of SWWHPP’s digital installation: ‘One Story, Many Voices’. The digital installation is an audio experience, through which members of the public can immerse themselves in eight stories created by five celebrated writers: Amina Atiq, Nicola Baldwin, Mercedes Kemp, Glen Patterson and Michael Rosen.

Each of these stories relates to a different aspect of the Second World War or the Holocaust and aims to shine a light on some of the lesser-known stories from both of these histories. These stories are available online via the One Story, Many Voices webpage however, the digital installation itself provides a physical medium through which to access the stories.  

Since early February, the digital installation has been touring our partner sites, spending roughly a month at each location. In total, the tour is scheduled to span just over a year (ending in early 2023).

With IWM as the lead in this project, it has been up to myself and SWWHPP project manager Rachel Donnelly, to oversee the coordination of this tour. This has been achieved through regular communication and correspondence with our partner sites , as well as the external contractors AM System who have been responsible for installing and deinstalling at each site.

A man kneels and installs the digital installation at IWM London
©Rachel Donnelly
Setting up the digital installation at IWM London, September 2022

Crucially, in aiding with the delivery of these responsibilities , I have had the opportunity to develop and refine a range of administrative skills, including professional email communication technique as well as experience in project coordination.

With the working world becoming increasingly digital, and such skills becoming invaluable in the workplace, I have no doubt that my experience in this area will be of great benefit to me, whatever career path I may choose.

In addition to my work in supporting the tour of the digital installation, I worked closely with SWWHPP Project Officer Pamela Aveyard in the planning and delivery of a residential for the project’s digital interns, which took place between 28th February and 2nd March. The residential, which was based at IWM London and IWM Duxford, provided the digital interns from each partner organisation with the opportunity to meet one another in person, visit the new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries, and see IWM Duxford’s impressive collection of aircraft, whilst also benefiting from sessions with heritage colleagues focusing on a range of employability skills.

Curator Craig Murray stands in front of a group of people
©Rachel Donnelly
SWWHPP Digital Interns and Project Officer Pamela Aveyard, on a tour of Hangar 2 with IWM curator, Craig Murray, at IWM Duxford

The residential lasted three days and united digital interns from programme partner sites around the U.K. It featured two panel discussions, where heritage experts in employability skills provided insights into how best to approach job interviews, applications and the necessary preparations associated with each. Interns were presented with opportunities to give session feedback and were also given a tour of the Duxford site. The Residential required a great deal of planning and preparation, from the arrangement of accommodation for the interns, restaurant bookings and logistical onsite arrangements to ensure that everything was available when and where it should be.

In addition to my work with SWWHPP, between January and April I worked closely with my fellow Partnerships assistant Jonnie Bayes in the planning of an online event to contribute to BBC’s Art That Made Us festival. The festival invited contributions that demonstrate the strong connection between the history of the British Isles and the art its inhabitants have produced. Furthermore, this fantastic opportunity to participate in a national festival has been fascinating to work on and has involved cooperating closely with partners while also giving us the chance to form new connections with organisations and individuals around the world.

A composite graphic featuring various artworks, used as the promotional image used for the ‘Art Produced During Times of Conflict’ event
The promotional image used for our event: ‘Art Produced During Times of Conflict’, created by Jonnie Bayes

For the event, myself and Jonnie were in touch with heritage sites as close as Bradford and as far away as Australia. Each site chose an artefact or object from their collection, one of artistic and historical significance and put together a video, offering context and information on the object in question.

The event, which took place over zoom in on April 8th, attracted an impressive 52 attendees, with participants from the US, Australia, Canada and Mexico making the experience a memorable one. After playing the videos, which were all well edited by Jonnie and included engaging and diverse content, we launched into the Q&A section. For this part of the event, I had prepared a range of carefully crafted questions, aimed at each speaker, which ensured that the standard of discussion was consistently high. With so many fascinating ideas shared, each generating its own spontaneous discussion, we inevitably ended up running over the scheduled hour. The atmosphere stayed relaxed and professional throughout and made for a very enjoyable and informative afternoon!

It goes without saying that the varied range of contributions from an equally diverse array of locations made coordinating the event a real privilege. It was also hard work. In preparing and organising the event, myself and Jonnie collaborated with focus and commitment to ensure a high standard. As a result of this dedication, the event was a real success with a range of prolific heritage sites eager to participate and contribute something of significance. Of course, such an event also brings with it a degree of pressure, but the value of such an experience on a professional level cannot be overstated -  and adding it to a CV is sure to turn some heads!

In the months since I began at IWM, I believe I have made a great deal of progress, on a professional but also a personal level. The role has brought me into contact with people, places and opportunities that few get the chance to access. In shouldering a range of responsibilities, I believe I have grown in confidence and ability, and feel much more confident going back into the working world than I felt prior to November 2021. Placements of this kind are difficult to find, and even harder to secure. Working in the museum and heritage sector brings many challenges, requiring impeccable organisational skills, the ability to communicate effectively both verbally and when writing and of course a deep knowledge of your subject, just to name a few. Working in this environment has made me appreciate all the work that goes on behind the scenes in this sector, even if things appear calm on the surface. I will leave IWM with a more enlightened understanding of the heritage sector, and a respect that can only be gained by working in the environment itself.


Read Oliver's first IWM Blog >