My placement at the British Museum

Between January and March 2016, I undertook an 8-week placement in the Coins and Medals Department at the British Museum as part of my CHASE-funded PhD.  In order to maximise my employability, I was advised that obtaining work experience at the British Museum would be beneficial.  I, therefore, immediately contacted Gareth Williams, curator of Early Medieval Coinage, and arranged to work with him updating the museum records for Anglo-Viking coins. 

 Not only did I thoroughly enjoy my time at the British Museum, the placement provided me with an excellent opportunity to acquire valuable practical skills essential for working in a museum.  I was lucky enough to spend time processing the Watlington Hoard - a recently discovered Viking Hoard deposited in the late 870s.  This involved learning about the inquest process which objects are required to go through under the Treasure Act 1996.  I collected data which was used in the inquest of this hoard, namely, the weight of the coins (or coin fragments) and the inscriptions on the rarer/unique coins.  Since my placement, the Watlington Hoard has been declared as Treasure.  I was also responsible for some of the illustrations which will be featured in the forthcoming book to be published on this hoard.    

 The majority of the placement was spent cataloguing the Memorial Coinage of St Edmund; an Anglo-Scandinavian coinage minted in East Anglia in the late ninth to the early tenth century.  One of my main responsibilities was updating the information currently available on the British Museum’s database (MERLIN).  I also scanned the obverse (head) and reverse (tail) of the coins to create JPEG images which will accompany each record.  In order to successfully complete this task, I had to learn how to use the museum’s database and Photoshop CS4.  Additionally, I also enhanced my skills in handling objects and accurately reading coin inscriptions.  Using a spreadsheet, I checked the existing limited information for each coin on the database and added information to the blank fields.  This required each coin to be weighed, have its circumference measured, its type, date, mint location, find location (if known), minting authority and moneyer identified, the design described and the inscriptions (writing on the coins) typed out as a transcription with a transliteration.  

This placement also provided a valuable networking opportunity as I met most of the curators and museum assistants in the Coins and Medals Department.  In addition, I also met important guests visiting the department and curators from other departments in the museum.  I am very grateful to CHASE for making it possible for me to undertake this the placement at the British Museum.

Johanne Porter, University of East Anglia