MA Students at The University of Essex previously completed a placement at the Essex Record Office (ERO) in Chelmsford for the Great War Archive Project. Through various interviews, which have been posted fortnightly, they share their experiences and thoughts on the placement.
1. Could you tell us about the placement that you took part in and why you wanted to do this placement?
‘It was at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford as part of their Great War Archive Project, the Friends of Historic Essex bought a scrapbook for the ERO. It was created by a lady who was from the County ‘Wood’ family, Minna Bradhurst and documents her life during the war like the things she found interesting or significant and her family’s war activities. It also shows how much of everyday life continued during the war. It is part of a set of 4 scrapbooks, the others all being in private hands although the ERO has microfilm copies of them, along with copies of other scrapbooks put together by Minna Bradhurst.
As part of my placement, I am researching the Bradhurst and Wood families, the Red Cross in Essex during the war, Rivenhall Place (the family home) and Field Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood (uncle of Minna Bradhurst) amongst other things. I am also looking at the activity of scrapbooking itself.
I applied for the placement on a whim, not really expecting to get it (I thought lots of people had applied and that I probably wouldn’t get it). I came to the ERO and spoke to Hannah, the placement supervisor, and found that what I would be doing was interesting and with a large degree of free reign over what was to be produced, so I took it!
2. What was your favourite part of the placement?
Being able to delve into the ERO archives and discover all the other documents that are held there, and bringing my children in for a tour – which they loved!
3. What did you learn from your placement?
That I love archives and collections and old books and researching fascinating people.
I have learnt a huge amount about myself – my abilities and limitations, and how to overcome them.
Academically, I have learnt about different styles of writing, and how they are different from academic essays.
4. Did you have any exciting or interesting things happen during your placement?
Not really – I’ve just found the whole experience exciting!!
5. What would you say to any students who are considering doing a placement?
Make sure you think about how much time you will spend travelling to and from your placement, and the cost involved (even though many of them have bursaries, you still need to budget for travel and food). This was something that I had to factor into my day-to-day life, especially as I have other commitments (children, employment). However, having other commitments has driven me to make the most out of my placement.
6. Do you have any advice for students thinking about doing a placement?
I am doing my MA on a part-time basis and I don’t think I could have done it as a full-time student, although someone full time may say it was fine. I am lucky that my placement provider has been very flexible, but others may not be so, again, take time for researching and writing into account.
Treat the placement as work experience and grab every opportunity given to you there.
Just apply and see what happens!!!
7. Was there anything that you would have like to be told before you started your placement, that could be useful to future students?
It would have been nice to have the assessment guidance from the university at the start of the placement, just so I knew what was expected of me from them. Maybe this could be given out/made available online along with all the other module details.
8. Has doing your placement influenced any career planning that you might have?
It has helped to think about what I definitely do not want to do!
For more information, or if you are interested in doing a placement please contact Alix Green on email@example.com.