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Behind the ‘Staff Only’ doors

Posted 6 Mar

MOD. at UniSA
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Written by Claudia von der Borch

Internships are an opportunity to open ‘Staff Only’ doors. I used this opportunity to peek into the world of MOD., a museum I had been enthralled by as both a visitor and as a museum studies student. 

As I am coming to the end of my Masters in Cultural Heritage I am starting to form a more solidified image of where I want my career to be heading. Mostly this is explored through consolidating the knowledge gained from my studies, the other part is actively seeking new experiences and opportunities.

For my final unit I elected to undertake an internship. I was keen to learn more about exhibition development as this is an area of my studies which could benefit from a less theoretical approach. I also had a wealth of collection management experience from volunteering in various museums, so wanted to explore a different side of the museum field. 

With this interest in mind I applied to MOD. to undertake my internship with Dr Lisa Bailey, the Senior Exhibition Manager. I was very excited when MOD. agreed to host me as I had been following MOD. since its inception. In particular, I was interested in the work they were doing, the design principles they were applying and their approach to exhibitions as a question to be explored rather than answered. 

What did I work on?

My internship lasted two weeks where I was given a desk in the ‘MOD. Pod’, their office. 

I worked on a project for the Cosmic Living Room exhibit in their current exhibition WAGING PEACE. The Cosmic Living Room addresses universal forms of communication, in particular welcoming extra-terrestrial beings into the space.

One of MOD.’s design principles is to be ‘Unexpected and Audacious’. Analysing dust from the rug in the Cosmic Living Room for cosmic dust to test for aliens fits neatly into this category. Across the two weeks I went to Future Industries Institute at the UniSA Mawson Lakes campus to document the testing of the sample through Scanning Electron Microscopy, selected SEM images for display, wrote a blog post and contributed my thoughts regarding the incorporation of the results in to the exhibit and web.  

I was also involved in the programming side of exhibition development. I looked at the Are you Game? programming for the Fringe and WAGING PEACE. I also reviewed the current exhibition text template, risk assessments and aided in the curation of an augmented reality display for Adelaide Botanic High School. Finally, I engaged visitors in surveys for feedback about the current Sleep Ops exhibit.

Aside from the projects I worked on, the most beneficial part of my internship was sitting in on meetings and learning about the day-to-day processes which occur to make the office functional and to make exhibitions happen. I learnt about the resources MOD. taps into, the considerations that need to be taken into account at various stages of development, and the communication that happens between the MOD. team. 

MOD. made me feel included and when I made suggestions they welcomed them. Overall, I found the team to be a cohesive unit, who engaged in collaborative and innovative practices. They were empathetic and full of passion for what they were working on.

So….

I was talking with a friend recently who explained that their work is just to fill the space before the weekend, a means to an end. What I learnt from this conversation is that I am actually really excited about what I am studying and the work field I am entering. I looked forward to every day I was at MOD. and am eager to apply my new knowledge to my future endeavours. Thanks, MOD., for letting me explore behind that ‘Staff Only’ door!

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