Hartlepool museum apprentice Emma helping to maintain cultural treasures for generations to come

Emma Callaghan loves going to work as every day she gets to help maintain and care for some of Hartlepool’s most treasured cultural assets at the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Friday, 11th February 2022, 4:45 am

They include everything from small handheld historic objects right up to the museum’s biggest attraction – HMS Trincomalee.

Already employed at the museum as a conservation technician, Emma is on an apprenticeship to the more highly qualified role of conservator.

She is combining academic learning and valuable hands-on experience with the University of Lincoln’s pioneering Cultural Heritage Conservator Apprenticeship.

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Emma Callaghan is currently a Conservation Technician at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Picture by FRANK REID

Developed along with the Institute of Conservation it is the first vocational pathway into the conservation profession.

It meant Emma, 26, from Hartlepool, could keep her job in conservation and achieve a more highly qualified role.

She gave an insight into her role during National Apprenticeship Week.

Emma said: “Usually you have to go and do a masters degree or an undergraduate to be a qualified conservator.

Conservation Technician Emma Callaghan with a sextant she has cleaned. Picture by FRANK REID

"It means the organisation gets to upskill a member of their team.

"It also means I get to work more closely with some of the conservators and curators and other members of staff here and learn from them directly.”

Conservators look after cultural heritage objects from historic houses and ships down to paintings and tiny objects.

She is supported by a team of conservators, shipwrights, and riggers across the museum’s estate.

Emma's role also involves maintaining this model ship of a Royal Naval dinghy from the 1960's. Picture by FRANK REID

Emma added: "I’m learning to look after those objects physically and also through keeping them in the right environment to make sure that they remain as stable as possible for as long as possible, so that everybody can get to experience it.

"Not just the people that are alive now but people in 50 or 100 years time.”

And Emma said the museum, which recreates an 18th Century seaport, is a great place to learn and work.

"Every day is completely different,” she said. “I get to work with some great people and some really great objects, like the ship that is so central to Hartlepool.”

Clare Hunt, senior curator for National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool and Emma’s supervisor, said: “I am so delighted to support Emma with her apprenticeship here in Hartlepool.

"She is an extremely dedicated and conscientious member of the team, and her professional development in this area of work can only help us as a museum to care for our collections and ships.”

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