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  • Writer's pictureAryan Shah

My Work Experience at the Etches Collection - the week that changed everything.

Hi Guys! So, I recently had my week of work experience and what can I say? I went to Kimmeridge. Now, Kimmeridge is well known for one thing and one thing only, it is home to the Etches Collection Museum of Jurassic Marine Life. This museum was founded by the one and only, universally acclaimed fossil collector, Dr. Steve Etches MBE, who has dedicated 35 years of his life to Palaeontology through collection and preservation of marine fossils. I had the privilege of having my work experience placement there! During my time there, I had written some diary entries of the daily activities I was involved in there. Before you read it, I must say, please do give the Etches Collection a visit to immerse yourself in the Kimmeridgian seas of the Jurassic with 10% of Steve’s Collection on display and the rest behind two doors in the museum itself. Now you can immerse yourself in this article!

What an honour! The man himself Dr. Steve Etches MBE and I after a week of Palaeontological GREATNESS!

Day 1 – Monday the 28th of October 2019: I arrived sharp at quarter to ten today, where I was greeted by Karen, my supervisor for the week, who gave me a brief tour of the museum and the facilities there. I got some time to use the interactive ‘Paleo Go’ app( an app created by Bournemouth University using AR(augmented reality) tech to bring marine reptiles to life on your device screen)to explore the gallery itself and see the fantastic specimens on display! Today I was tasked with editing their online shop interface and their product listings, as well as adding a funky new ‘Christmas Gift Ideas’ section onto their shop website. After a scrumptious lunch break, I was handed over to Carla, the PR manager(and Steve’s daughter!), who talked me through the social media aspects of the museum. This included how to manage the different platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and how to attract more visitors worldwide! I throughly enjoyed this IT oriented aspect of the museum, as I received an in-depth tour of how it is really run Day 2 – Tuesday the 29th of October 2019: Today, I continued with my work on the Etches Collection Shop with Karen, eventually completing that task in style! We updated it with an intriguing slideshow and links on each of the pictures to take the shopper to their desired page. I had fun making vlogs of my work experience on the museum’s instagram and uploading them to their story highlights on their profile! I worked with Carla who let me have some control over what is published on their social media accounts and deciding what posts are good for their publicity. Now, today was the day when I met Steve Etches. I was thrilled to be in his presence and we had several conversations including Spinosaurs and the mentality of Vertebrate Palaeontologists. After lunch I continued to post on the Etches Collection Instagram account, filming my daily life there, simultaneously receiving encouraging and positive feedback from the followers. Later on, I had to change a part of the display, by making card versions of the tools found in the fossil kit as there is a health hazard with real hammers on display. I printed out the relevant pictures and applied them onto card to be placed on display. This was quite fun as it awakened my creative side!

Ichthyosaur vertebrae on display

Day 3 – Wednesday the 30th of October 2019: I was asked today by Pete and his film crew to be a part of Steve Etches Charity Legacy Video, which was jaw-dropping as I have never been on camera before!! I started to change the information poster for the 3 metre long Ichthyosaur upstairs as it looked a bit worn; I rearranged the photos and Steve edited the text to be even more accurate than it was. Later, Dr. Judyth Sassoon arrived. She is a lecturer at Bristol University and specialises in Pliosaurs, of course I was excited to meet her! Judyth, Steve and I all spoke about the evolution of Sharks, Crocodiles and the convergent evolution of Pliosaurs, which was superb, because for me, speaking to people about Palaeontology is an honour, as it really makes me think about it and that makes me happy. That morning, I really got to expand my mind and question my own theories, which was very fun. After lunch I documented all of the feedback forms from Dr. Gavin Cooke’s talk onto an Excel Spreadsheet. It took a while, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end was very satisfying! In the afternoon, I was introduced to Lesley and Sarah, volunteers of the museum, who accompanied Steve and myself on the Bay Tour. That afternoon was wet and cold, you’d automatically think “ugh!!”, but no, they were the perfect conditions for the Tour as no one else was on the beach. The group we were with consisted of 24 people, old and young, which was great to see as many people were very intrigued by what we found there. There was an abundance of ammonites on the beach, I even found the Gladius of a fossilised cuttlefish, which I personally think was the best fossil there! I genuinely enjoyed speaking to the tourists about my work at the museum and I throughly look forward to the MacMillan Cake Sale tomorrow as well as Fossil Labelling.

Me on the Bay tour!

Day 4 – Thursday the 31st of October 2019: Today was the Macmillan Cake and Coffee Sale, so I was tasked with making a poster to advertise the coffee morning. Next, I had to type up and replace all of the labels of Adrian’s fossils (near the entrance) using the computers, as most of the labels have been handwritten and simply needed organising . This was fun as I thoroughly examined and handled all of the fossils I relabelled! I was taught by Karen and Emily how to use the till, which was really fun for me, as I have never really done that before and somehow really wanted to. I served 6 people today, which was awesome, selling items from the shop and providing admission tickets to some. I have just discovered the Neural arch of an Ichthyosaur vertebrae on my desk alongside a crocodilian vertebrae which I really want! Tomorrow, I am spending the whole day, almost 5 hours in Steve’s workshop, which is phenomenal, as I cannot wait to spend time with him and fire all of my questions at him!

The Pliosaur Jaw - K1

Day 5 – Friday the 1st of November 2019: Today was AMAZING!!! I got a personalised, specialised, detailed tour of the whole gallery and Steve’s private collection in its entirety by the man himself! I spent the whole day with him, learning a ton of information today, even things I had never even heard of! I saw 3000-4000 fossils today, which completely blew my mind. I even managed to meet Sir Richard Lambert before I left the museum. He is on the board of trustees for the museum, was the Director-General of the CBI and is the chairman of the British Museum. I am so sad that today is the last day of Work Experience, as this week has been so fabulous, and I just want it to continue. The team here are phenomenal; they were so welcoming and hospitable throughout the week! I got to work and experience many different factors of what it really takes to run a fantastic museum like this. This, I feel, really prepares me for my future career, standing me a good stead in later life and hopefully in the paleontological world. 

This truly was the week that changed everything.

 Here's me and Sir Richard Lambert!

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