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Researching heritage: Transporting people to transporting minds

by YPU Admin on January 4, 2018, Comments. Tags: Heritage, history, MSI, Museum of Science and Industry, PhD, and Research

Introduction

My name is Erin Beeston and I’m a part-time PhD Student at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) at the University of Manchester and the Science Museum Group. I’m working on a collaborative doctoral award, which means I work across two institutions: the University of Manchester and Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), Manchester.

I began my academic career at the University of Manchester in 2004, when I started a History undergraduate degree. During this time, I realised I’d like to work in heritage. The University Careers Service suggested I gain experience by volunteering and I began a placement at the Manchester Museum’s Herbarium making digital records of historic botany specimens. Then I studied for a master’s degree in Art Gallery and Museum Studies whilst working part-time in museums. I used my academic knowledge, skills from my university course such as organisation, time management, accurate record keeping and presentation skills along with what I learnt though working and volunteering to start a career in museums. I worked at Salford and then Bolton Museum, mostly with social and industrial history collections. Although I enjoyed my work, I was interested in studying for PhD as I am passionate about research. I saw an advertisement by the Science Museum Group for a PhD student to work on the history of uses and perceptions of Liverpool Road Station (the site of the Museum of Science and Industry). As I had previously worked at MSI as an assistant presenter (doing fun things like children’s activities and helping with science shows), I was keen to research the museum’s rich history and applied for the project.    

In Depth

The focus of my research is Liverpool Road Station, which dates form 1830 and is the oldest railway station in the world. Whilst the early history of the station is well known, for many decades after the passenger service (1830-1844) it was a freight station – which has been overlooked by historians. I am working on both the history of the site and exploring how it was transformed into the museum during the 1970s and 1980s. I often visit archives to view primary sources about the site, these can be documents, maps or other visual sources. I have been to London to visit National Archives, to the National Railway Museum in York, viewed archives in Liverpool, Chester, Manchester and Preston. I have also recorded interviews called oral histories with people who either worked at the railway station or played a part in rescuing it and making the museum. This research is important to the museum, who are using findings to present the history of their buildings to the public, particularly the lesser known freight story. The results of my thesis are informing work on new galleries at MSI. I enjoy finding out new stories and ways of looking at the history of the site and discussing this with staff at the museum and the public. During my PhD, I have shared my research with other postgraduates, academics and the public through conferences and talks. I’ve even attended a summer school in Budapest! It’s a brilliant journey, finding out new things and developing ideas and arguments along the way.


Going Further

I undertook an undergraduate degree in History at the University: <http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/brochures/salc/2018/ug/history.pdf>

My master’s was at the Centre for Museology: <http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/list/01100/ma-art-gallery-and-museum-studies/>

<https://culturalpractice.wordpress.com/category/centre-for-museology/>

My first experience working in a museum was at the Manchester Museum’s Herbarium where I learnt about record keeping, digitisation and collections care: <https://herbologymanchester.wordpress.com/about/>

<http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/collection/plants/>

Here you can find out more about the Science Museum Group’s research programme:

<https://group.sciencemuseum.org.uk/our-work/research-public-history/>

And the focus of my research - the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester: <https://www.msimanchester.org.uk/>

At CHSTM we write about our work for this blog: <https://chstmphdblog.wordpress.com/>

For example, I wrote a blog about my summer school experience at the CEU in Budapest! <https://chstmphdblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/cities-and-science-summer-school/>

Here you can find more about CHSTM and the modules available to undergraduates: <http://www.chstm.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/>