Sutton Trust Summer School

Winning Students Over, One Artefact At A Time

Imogen Gunn, Collections Manager for Archaeology, MAA writes: This past week at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (MAA), Cambridge, has been proved to be an excellent example of why I love working in museum archaeology – convenient that it should so happily overlap with the Day of Archaeology!

As the Collections Manager for Archaeology, no two days are ever the same and this is one of the (many) joys of the job. One day I will be getting collections out for a researcher visiting from overseas, another day I’m tracking down a letter in the archive relating to a specific artefact in our collection, and often I find myself re-packing boxes and cursing whoever used cotton wool to pack ironwork. Another aspect of my post is facilitating education and engagement using MAA’s reserve archaeology collection, whether it be teaching Cambridge undergraduate practicals or hosting hands-on sessions with local community groups.

This week, the archaeology workroom at MAA hosted the Sutton Trust Summer School for Archaeology and Biological Anthropology. The aim of the Sutton Trust Summer Schools is to give bright students from non-privileged backgrounds a university experience, with the aim of demystifying elite universities and encourage them to apply. On Tuesday, ten extremely bright Year 12 students from all around the UK arrived at MAA to experience what it would be like to read archaeology and biological anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

Imogen leading an object handling session for the Summer School

Imogen leading an object handling session for the Summer School

Over the course of the week, the students attended such lectures as Bodies of Evidence: How Human Skeletal Remains Help Us Explore the Past, Science & Archaeology and Material Culture: Secret Agents of the Past. After attending a Handling Museum Objects practical, each student chose an artefact for his or her Object Report. In between lectures, they spent time in the archaeology workroom studying, measuring and bonding with their artefact and in the Haddon Library researching it.

This morning the summer school culminated with the students presenting their artefact (to which most had grown quite attached) and their reports to the group. Each student tackled the assignment slightly differently: some focused on how the object was produced and used, others elaborated on the religious context or symbolic importance, and one student managed to date her artefact based on manufacturing technique. I certainly learned a great deal!

The Sutton Trust Summer School students

The Sutton Trust Summer School students

I enjoy (almost) all facets of my job, but this week was particularly rewarding. I’m hoping to see a few familiar faces from this week in my undergraduate practicals next year.