March 21, 2023, by Rebekah

Placement with UoN Manuscripts and Special Collections

by Thomas Acratopulo, 2nd year, Politics and International Relations student. 

Hi, I’m Thomas and currently in my 2nd year of studying Politics and International Relations. Last year I was given the opportunity to complete a placement at the Nottingham Manuscripts and Special Collections. During this time, I worked with a team of experienced Archivists to extract key information from some historical floorplans of the University campus buildings.

I originally found the placement through one of the University careers newsletters and was intrigued in working for an official university archive. I was asked to fill in a few simple forms explaining why I wanted to work with the team along with a short interview where I demonstrated my interest in archival practices and historical restoration. All the staff were friendly and encouraging helping to create a fun atmosphere within the building. For anyone looking at applying to a placement I would recommend trying someone new and exciting, treat it as a way to test the waters for a potential future career, as you may not get the chance in the future.

I found the act of discovering the history of the University of Nottingham to be the most fascinating part of the placement. The act of noting down all the information taught me to focus in on the details of a document and be diligent in my notes. My work was mostly independent and open-ended in how I approached it, meaning I could make decisions for myself as to how my workspace should be organised and how I broke down tasks over the course of each day. This helped me to be more sure of myself when working.

The biggest challenge during the placement was grappling with the amount of information and floorplans to sift through. Each building would have a large number of plans each and all had multiple sets of key of information like the architect, building number, annotations etc which had to be carefully recorded for future reference. The way I dealt with this issue was to break down each building into smaller individual sets of plans and only move on from those sets when they had been recorded and put in a logical order, Then I could simply add the sets together to create a finished set of plans.

My tips for people considering a placement:

  • Take the risk when choosing a placement and go for something you’ve  never done before, you may find something new that fascinates you.
  • Remember to reflect on your experience and how it has shaped you for the future, make reference to it in later interviews and make sure it goes on your CV.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from your supervisor throughout the process. It means you will learn faster and gain more from the placement overall- remember there are no silly questions!
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