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Meet our new learning and engagement manager, Kate Kern

by Kate Kern, learning and engagement manager

Hello!  My name is Kate Kern and I am the new learning and engagement manager at Fulham Palace.  As a brief introduction I thought I would write about how I fell into this brilliant, but sometimes bizarre career of museum and heritage education.  I’m not entirely sure if my experiences will encourage others to follow in my footsteps or run away screaming, but that is for you to decide…!

I studied history at Royal Holloway followed by a Medieval Studies MA.  The MA included a ‘Museum Skills’ module was at the Museum of London and gave us an insight to all of the departments in a large museum, what they did and how they worked together.  I graduated convinced I wanted to do exhibition design.

I immediately started volunteering at my local authority museum in Horsham, working on collections.  One afternoon the freelance education officer bustled in and said could I help her prep an activity for the holiday workshop as she was really pressed for time. The prep involved building wooden dinosaur kits then breaking them up and burying them in boxes of sand for children to excavate. I had no idea that you could do that for a job and was instantly enthralled! I began working on the education side and ran family events, outreach schools sessions and helped to set up a network for museum education professionals in Sussex and Surrey (the Learning Liaison Forum).

I was able to take advantage of training and experience with the East Sussex Archaeology and Museums Partnership (ESAMP) scheme, run through Brighton Museums at Anne of Cleves House in Lewes.  I learnt how to make felt and clean a hide with their Archaeological Interpretation Unit, as well as get fantastic support in applying for jobs in the museums sector.

I then undertook an unpaid internship at Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre in West Sussex for three months. Working with the education officer there gave me first-hand experience of managing and delivering a busy learning programme with schools, events and public engagement. A museum focused on the history of transport and industry, based in an old chalk pit, was not my favourite period of history. However, I learned that it wasn’t the specifics of history that mattered, but how visitors of all ages engaged with it.  From 5 year olds riding on a 90 year old bus, to mums and dads learning how to drive a steam engine, seeing the excitement and interest when people truly engage with history is addictive. I was lucky enough to get paid work at Amberley after this, firstly as a museum assistant and finally as the education officer. I was there for nearly four years and it gave me a brilliant grounding in museums, heritage sites, working with volunteers and the best and worst sides of working in a museum!

I seized the opportunity in 2014 to take a side step and run a heritage project at All Saints church in Kingston upon Thames. The site where the first seven Saxon Kings of England were crowned, All Saints is a stunning medieval church in the heart of Kingston. All Saints was awarded £1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the church and create a learning programme based on its unique Saxon history.

So I find myself at Fulham Palace!  The palace is such a fabulous place to work, with the gorgeous setting, wonderful staff and mind blowing volunteer team. I am relishing this opportunity to support and contribute to such a fantastic organisation and I look forward to the future projects here at Fulham Palace.