Esther Hoyle, Archives Engagement Manager at the Somerset Heritage Centre, writes about her reflections on past Takeover Days and the upcoming anniversary event.

Embracing the ink splats – a celebration of Takeover Day

Takeover Day was established by Kids in Museums in 2010 to provide the opportunity for young people to experience real and meaningful roles in Heritage. I spent the day yesterday (11th February 2020) at The Museum in the Park, Stroud, sharing our experiences of Takeover Day with people from a number of museums in the South West; the idea was to show how Takeover Day can be successful in whatever small way you are able to embrace it and to share ideas of how to start. Creating my presentation gave me a chance to reflect on the last 7 years of Takeover Day here at the Somerset Heritage Centre and to look forward to the 10th anniversary event this year.

Beginning in 2013 with Year 10 Students

I first came across Takeover Day when one of our Learning Officers promoted it at the Museum of Somerset and suggested we might take part at the Somerset Heritage Centre. We started in 2013 with some Year 10 students undertaking a range of tasks including sorting and cataloguing a collection, creating some learning resources and helping in the searchroom. We finished the day with feedback cookies, a gingerbread star decorated to show how they rated their experience.

A couple of years later we decided it was time for a change. Out with the Year 10s, in with the Year 5s, bringing a partnership with Staplegrove Church School, one of our local schools. Having a whole class instead of 6 students provided us with a bit of a challenge: how to ensure they all experienced enough of the Heritage Centre and the roles they were taking over in the half a day they are with us. We worked out the potential tasks, we worked out the logistics and we rolled out a timetable. We have added a few things over the years but generally the timings work, the tasks work and the children…work…! By the time they leave, telephone calls will have been answered, visitors greeted, enquiries handled, learning resources sorted, tour facts remembered, and documents listed. Names will have been written carefully in secretary hand using quills, and inky stains will have appeared on fingers. And occasionally on walls, hence the phrase embracing the ink splats.

Takeover Day – the Best School Trip Ever

Feedback received has concluded that Takeover Day is the best school trip ever, except for maybe the residential. When asked what the best bit of Takeover Day was, the answer has generally been Everything, although often answering the telephone comes out on top. Tangible outcomes for us include a new exhibition in the searchroom and a collection of documents sorted and listed. The main experience we take is seeing the enjoyment of the students whilst they tackle our roles in their own ways, guided by us but bringing their own enthusiasm and engagement to the Somerset Heritage Centre.

Year 5 Students’ Journalist Reports

On Thursday 21 November 2019 the journalists from the Year 5 class wrote the following report on their Takeover Day experience:

Today we are at the Somerset Heritage Centre and we are taking over people’s jobs! We get to sort old documents, write with ink and a quill, go on tour and lots more. Here are some thoughts from people:

Elijah – We are adding new materials to a collection
Gabs – I like using the computers
Charlotte – I enjoyed the Museum stores, now I am sorting out maps

I personally enjoyed sorting the documents because you get to look at all the different pictures and old magazines.

Today we went to the Heritage Centre and looked at old stuff including stuffed animals. The documents are over 100 years old. We are finding out dates of documents, maps and pictures.

Maggie – When you see a dragonfly close up it has webs on its wings
Lily-May – You say polite words to customers on the phone. It is always busy. What you do includes filing, photocopying, tidying books and writing out membership cards

I enjoyed the quills the most and learning about newspapers and pictures.