York Mansion House - Public History Internship

Posted on 1 October 2014

A day in the life interning with York Mansion House

Originally the main aims of the internship at Mansion House were to research its collection of Civic Plate, as well as the ‘Eighteenth-century dining experience’ in order to produce a bibliography of sources to form the basis for further research. After talking with our project supervisor, however, the other intern and I decided that it would be much more meaningful for us to produce an information pack intended for visitors rather than simply providing a list of sources. Mansion House is currently putting together a bid for the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the aim of our research was to provide contextual information about the collection of Civic Plate and dining in the eighteenth-century; we were effectively working as ‘historical consultants’ for the house. Through meetings with our project supervisor we also identified tea and coffee as useful areas of research. The research we undertook was largely individual and we were based at home rather than at the house itself – so the internship involved a degree of self-discipline – but this was not difficult as I found the research topics extremely interesting. My own research focused on tea drinking from the seventeenth-century to the present, and coffeehouses and dining in the eighteenth-century. I was able to look at a wide range of primary and secondary sources, and as well as producing annotated bibliographies of the sources I used I also developed a ‘Timeline of Tea’ showing how tea drinking has changed over time, an ‘eighteenth-century broadsheet’ containing information about tea and coffee drinking in York, and an information sheet about detecting counterfeit tea based on an eighteenth-century source – The Tea Purchaser’s Guide – which may form the basis for a children’s activity in the future. Hopefully the information sheets will be useful for the house as it moves forward with the lottery bid, as they can be used as they are or rewritten in the future. The annotated bibliographies will also allow someone to conduct further research into these topics at a later date. I thoroughly enjoyed the research process, and it has been lovely to find out more about the Mansion House itself as well as eighteenth-century York.

















One of my information sheets about tea and coffee drinking in eighteenth-century York (above), written in the style of an eighteenth-century newspaper (below)


















Timeline of tea


What my internship did for me:

This internship immediately appealed to me because I already have a strong interest in the eighteenth-century and it offered an opportunity to research aspects of the period. However, it was at times difficult to condense all my research and write it up in a style that would be accessible for visitors as I am used to writing for an academic audience. Throughout the internship, therefore, I had to develop skills in writing for the public and this is something I hope to be able to apply in my future career as I would like to work in museums or heritage. Getting experience ‘behind the scenes’ at an historic house was therefore invaluable. I also developed my own research skills as I sought out new sources, and improved upon my communication skills as the internship involved working with another intern as well as meetings with the project supervisor to discuss our progress. I am currently studying for an MA in Public History and will go on to study for a PhD once I have completed my MA, and this internship has enabled me to begin to build up experience in the sector I one day hope to work in.








Elizabeth Spencer

Public History Internship