My name is Naomi, and I volunteered at the Museum of East Asian Art in 2015 – 2016. The experience helped a great deal when applying for my new role as the curator at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent. The castle was bought by the collector and art dealer Denys Eyre Bower to house his collection of Japanese, Buddhist, Ancient Egyptian, and Jacobite art, as well as his research library. It’s now an accredited museum and the objects he collected are on display during the open season from April to October. Although the collections are not well known, they are very historically important, in particular the extensive group of Japanese lacquer wares including the famous ‘Chiddingstone Casket’, an incredibly rare 17th-century piece of Japanese export lacquer. The collection includes samurai armour, swords, lacquer wares, and even ancient haniwa tomb figures from the 6th century. It has been my dream to be able to work in a museum, and I am so excited to be able to manage the fascinating and unusual collections at the castle.

At the MEAA, I was able to work on many different tasks including writing for the Museum’s website and helping at events like the Harvest Moon festival and the Japan festival. I’m particularly interested in the education side of museums, and these events were a great experience. I was encouraged to focus on tasks that I found really interesting, and were linked to my studies, such as helping with Japanese tea ceremony demonstrations. The people I worked with at the Museum were also really kind, friendly, and enthusiastic, and organised some great social events for the volunteers. The object handling session and visit to the British Museum with Dr Chiang was so interesting and helpful for my museum studies. It was a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and to gain behind-the-scenes experience.

Whilst studying for my undergraduate degree in Japanese, I was drawn to Japanese art because of the way it helps us understand the lives of the people that we read about in history books. I decided I wanted to work in the arts and heritage sector, and volunteering experience in museums is essential for this. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to gain work experience at the MEAA, as it’s the only museum dedicated to my area of study in the country.

31 January 2018