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Cultural Internship Experience

Katherine Reeve is part way through a 6 month cultural internship as part of her masters degree at the University of Birmingham

Emma Birks
Katherine Reeve, Intern

Katherine Reeve is undertaking an MRes (a masters by research) at the University of Birmingham and is currently working through a 6 month cultural internship at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The opportunity was offered through a university scheme that places students in venues of cultural importance in the West Midlands and Warwickshire. We caught up with Katherine to find out more about her exciting experiences so far.

What appealed to you about this internship?

My background is History of Art and Literature and I’ve worked in museum conservation. This internship at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was a coming together of my interests because there’s a literature element; there's collections element and art history element and it fitted really well with what I wanted to do. I graduated from my BA two years ago and so far I’ve done a year of my MRes but have also been doing placements including one in Australia where I was a commercial conservator for part of the placement - I even got to work on a mummy.

What does the placement actually entail?

On this placement I’m based in collections three days a week and I’m based in learning two days a week, that’s because my project spans the two departments so the in-house name of it is Digital Houses and the public facing name is Shakespedia. Shakespedia is on a similar basic format as Wikipedia; it's lots of short and sharp entries about Shakespeare which all link together. My project is writing about the different sites we look after; Shakespeare’s Birthplace is by and large done, so I’m looking at Hall’s Croft and structuring how I’m going to create a series of articles telling the place’s history.

What are some of the best aspects?

One of the really great things about this internship is so much of my work is going to be published on Shakespedia and it's amazing for so much of my research to be used by an institution with my name attached to it. It’s something I never thought would happen. That’s a huge thing I’ve got from this project that’s going to stand me in good stead. It's also just great to be attached to such an iconic and important institution. I couldn’t do much better than work at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

“'s also just great to be attached to such an iconic and important institution.”

— Katherine's experience of being an intern here at SBT

What kind of person suits this internship?

To be the right person for this internship I think you have to be driven by independent research because it’s a lot of time reading through archival texts and books and thinking how you will construct an interesting narrative for people to read. I did a research masters so I love doing that and I’m really passionate about it. On the more challenging end, sometimes there’s too much information and you have to sieve through it all and think what are the key points here. Sometimes it’s not enough and there are periods of history that are just blank and you think “I know something must have happened” and it's finding that information and that can be very difficult. Especially when you get told anecdotal things and you think “that would be great I want to write about that” but there’s no firm evidence. Trying to figure out if you can use them or not can be tough.

What has been your highlight so far?

For me, one of the high points was when I stumbled across some information about the Town Hall in Stratford-upon-Avon being blown up not too long after the Gunpowder Plot. I was allowed to write the blog for the 5th of November.  That was great and had a positive response on social media. Another great moment for me is when I did some filming. We filmed education videos about some of Shakespeare’s plays; Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream plus Romeo and Juliet in three days and worked with actors. I was on boom it was really good fun: something I never thought I’d do!

What would be your advice to someone considering doing this role?

If I had any advice it would be to definitely do this internship. Also I think go in with a really open mind, ready to create something new and be confident to assert your ideas because I think one of the reasons the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust supports interns is to give a fresh perspective. You have to know you want to do something exciting with this role, take a direction and leave your mark. I hope I’ve be able to come in and give an outsider's point of view. It’s important to not critique but give a new perspective.

How does this internship fit into your long term plans?

I’ve now done so much in heritage, this is just adding another string to my bow. Long term I want to stay in heritage and museums because I’ve discovered I love everything to do with them: I could clean the toilets and love it! This internship has reaffirmed this is what I want to do.

Related links:

Katherine's blog
The Stratford Gunpowder Plot

Thanks to Bethany Hughes, Volunteer, for putting this interview together