A number of host institutions are still accepting applications for the British Museum’s Museum Futures 2021 training programme. The lottery-funded diploma programme offers paid digital skills traineeships to young people aged 18-24 with no previous museum experience. The placements are hosted by a range of museums across the UK.
Museums Journal has been speaking to the current cohort of trainees to learn more about their lockdown experiences and to find out how Covid is changing the way the sector thinks about digital. Mohammed Miah is based at the British Museum.
What brought you to apply to be a Museum Futures trainee?
Mohammed Miah: The traineeship was first brought to my attention by my youth supervisor at the charity I was involved in, Fitzrovia Youth in Action. I actually applied the previous year when the British Museum role was based in the broadcast team and more focused on film, and I was unsuccessful. This year, I saw that the British Museum role was in the Samsung digital learning team and more focused on data management which is more in line with what I am interested in, so I decided to apply again.
What kind of work were you undertaking pre-Covid?
I was supporting the work of the Samsung digital learning team at the museum. We run digital workshops and activities to entertain, educate and offer a new avenue of learning. Our audiences are typically school groups - be it a school group coming to the museum for a day trip, or a virtual call to their classrooms - and, on weekends, families.
Different topics are covered in each workshops and my personal favourites are the workshop that uses Minecraft to build Roman Britain and the activities using Samsung Centre’s green screen and photo manipulation apps to create images placing you with British Museum objects. My pre-Covid project was to compile visitor figures about the groups that use the Samsung Centre activities and transfer them into statistics that are easy to visually understand and share.
What was the day-to-day impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on your traineeship?
I am fortunate enough to say that I am still very busy. My main data management and visualisation projects were transferable to my home environment, as I had access to my emails, wifi and Microsoft Excel. I am also in regular contact with my team via regular morning Zoom calls.
But it hasn’t always been business as usual in this new working from home environment as my house is generally very hectic and there isn’t much space for everybody to work!
The pandemic has transformed how museums think about their digital offering. How has it changed your approach?
Before Covid, I didn’t put much weight on digital communication tools like video conferencing. During the course of the traineeship, and especially during lockdowns, I now see this as the way forward and I am testing out as many platforms and tools as I can, including blogs, social media, Zoom, Teams, you name it.
What do you think are the key digital skills that museums will need for the future?
The traineeship has shown me how important it is for museums to work with younger audiences. Young people often have digital confidence but also are engaged with the current social and cultural environment.