Infinity Internship

A post by Learning Coordinator Charlotte Spink and Infinity Intern Ailsa

In early summer 2022, I was approached by the Careers & Enterprise and Disability Support Service to join their Infinity Internship Programme. Infinity places Durham University students with autism in paid internships both inside and outside the University with the aim of benefitting both parties. The programme aims to access a pool of often untapped talent, promote diversity and inclusion and develop students’ knowledge and skills.

Applicants go through an application and recruitment process to ensure they are a good fit for the host organisation. In July our first Infinity Intern – Ailsa – arrived at the Oriental Museum.

Together, we created an 8 – week work plan that both met Ailsa’s goals and development needs and would result in a useful resource for the Oriental Museum. Ailsa decided to focus on creating a resource to engage an adult audience on an under-used area of our collections: the Indus Valley material. A small selection of objects from the Indus Valley is on display in the Himalayas, South Asia and Southeast Asia and the topic is on the National Curriculum for History. Despite that, it is often eclipsed by the Ancient Egyptians or Shang Dynasty of China and has lower general public awareness.

Ailsa began working to explore how other museums use their Indus Valley collections. She used her existing knowledge she had developed as part of studies in archaeology to begin creating an ‘whodunit’ online resource for use with adults including school teachers who may wish to develop their own knowledge before embarking on the topic in school.

Ailsa, over to you…

I greatly enjoyed my time with the Oriental Museum’s Learning Team. The Indus Valley collection and Marshall Archive piqued my interest because there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the Indus Civilization, particularly concerning the possible catalysts for its eventual collapse. The collection on display is similarly intriguing as the precise purpose of certain artefacts is unclear – for instance possible interpretations of the pottery hoops range from jewellery to loom weight. I wanted to incorporate this ambiguity into the resource, the result being the ‘whodunnit’ interactive. The intention is to create an active learning experience by encouraging people to apply what they have learnt about the Indus to weigh up the theories explaining its collapse and vote for their favourite (or create one of their own!). As part of the resource, visitors are also able to vote for their favourite theory and I am excited to see the outcome.

The most fascinating part of this internship was getting a look behind-the-scenes. I have learnt so much about how displays are curated, and the many methods used to engage the public in the objects and stories that the museum has to offer. This internship taught me so much and developed not just my skills but also my confidence – I can’t wait to pursue a career in museums and heritage! I really appreciate the time and effort that the Learning Team and the museum as a whole put in to helping me and accommodating my needs. It has been a truly memorable experience!

I accessed the Marshall Archive to research and build the online resource –here is one of my favourite photographs that I didn’t manage to include!

Marshall Archive: Volume 16: Panjab. (DUROM.1957.1.1201)         
1870-1935. Photographic paper, 206mm x 153mm.
Field collection location: Harappa, Sahiwal District, Sahiwal Division, Punjab Province, Pakistan, South Asia, AsiaBlack and white monochrome photograph of artefacts from Harappa.
A selection of faience ornaments of various shapes as well as an agate leech-pendant.

Ailsa also received training on how to use various digital tools like Shorthand and which our Museums and Galleries Team uses for creating online exhibition.

We hope that it will encourage school visits to the museum and more use of the collection generally.

You can view the new resource here

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