Woodhorn Heritage Museum and Archive Centre in Ashington might
thrive on preserving the past, but when it comes to developing the
skills of its workforce, its approach is bang up to date.
Placing itself firmly at the heart of a forward-thinking
recruitment and training campaign, the Ashington-based museum
recently appointed its first apprentices. The move forms part of a
wider strategy by Northumberland County Council, which oversees
Woodhorn, to inject new cultural heritage skills across the
Although Woodhorn was initially set up as a coal mining museum,
it has spread its wings since first opening its doors in 2006. A
series of visiting exhibitions, an abundance of tourists and a huge
surge in people carrying out family and local history searches,
keeps the museum busy all year round.
Jo Patterson, senior archives assistant, explains: “We are an
incredibly active museum, which welcomes the general public,
schools and education visitors. We also play host to people from
far and wide, including the USA and Australia.”
The archives section in particular has seen a growing number of
history hunters looking to find out more about everything from
Border conflicts, legal agreements and plans through to
photographs, maps, births, deaths and marriages. “As well as our
archive materials on site, we also run web based electronic
catalogues. This means that people can log on to our online systems
and trawl through over 150,000 records from the comfort of their
own homes,” said Jo.
Lending a hand is nineteen year old Robin Brownlee-Sayers, from
Whittingham, who took up his post with the museum’s archives team
through an Apprenticeship .
“Robin has really got to grips with the job, and has already
become a valuable member of our archives team. He is involved in a
whole host of duties which our archivists don’t always have time to
do. This is bringing added value to the museum and our visitors
too. What’s more, this activity is helping to generate additional
income for the museum thanks to the fees we charge for some of
these extra services,” added Jo.
“Now that I’ve experienced the benefits of Apprenticeships first
hand, I’m a real advocate. I would recommend this type of
structured recruitment and training programme to all employers. As
well as bringing new blood into the organisation, it allows you to
mould people to your specialist areas of work,” she continued.