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Cornwall Museums Partnership

Spotlight on: Sian Powell, Engagement Officer at Wheal Martyn

We catch up with Sian Powell, one of the 2020 Trainee Curators supported by Cornwall Museums Partnership’s NPO programme, to talk about her journey from Trainee Curator to Engagement Officer at Wheal Martyn Clay Works.

A young woman (Sian) stood next to an exhibition board full of landscape photographs celebrating Cornish clay country

#CelebrateClayCountry Photography Exhibition

I joined Wheal Martyn as a Trainee Curator in January and it didn’t take long for me to quickly fall in love with the museum and the wonderful heritage that it shares. I’m from St Austell and working in Wheal Martyn has given me the historic context for my childhood playgrounds of the clay trails and surrounding areas.

I found that the team at Wheal Martyn were incredibly supportive and welcoming and I instantly felt liked a valued member of staff which was greatly appreciated in the precarious position of being an intern and at the very beginning of my museum career.

Five young women stood inside a museum wearing hard hats.

The 2020 Trainee Curators at PK Porthcurno

My internship was interesting to say the least…2020 was such a strange year for everybody and I feel as though despite the setbacks of the pandemic and lockdown, it actually gave me new opportunities in some areas and helped me to widen my perspective on what a museum is and how it should serve its community.

The role also gave me an instant peer network of other Trainees in the exact boat as me and I found that so valuable, throughout the challenges of the year we were able to support and encourage each other. There was always a sense of collaboration rather than competition.

A man and a woman wearing face masks clean a historic train engine.historc

Sian assists a volunteer cleaning Lee Moor during her traineeship at Wheal Martyn last year.

I love Wheal Martyn; the historic buildings, the nature trail, the niche and often overlooked significant history. For many local people, the china clay industry has been a historic source of employment and any number of our relatives might have once worked for English China Clays. So working here, I often found myself personally invested in the industry which employed my great grandfather for his whole working life as well as many other local people.

I was delighted to have been appointed as Engagement Officer for Wheal Martyn in November and I look forward to being able to serve my local community and engage with the town and area of mid-Cornwall where I grew up and previously felt I had to leave in order to get any kind of career in museums!


– Sian Powell, Engagement Officer at Wheal Martyn Clay Works

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