MA Studentship at St Mary's Church, Beverley: Amanda Musolf (2022)

Amanda Musolf was awarded the 2021–22 MA studentship with St Mary's Church, Beverley. Here, she reflects on her experience, combining contemporary curatorial practice and research with working with and in one of England's most important medieval gems.

Though it only lasted three weeks, my studentship at St Mary’s Church, Beverley this past May provided me with a multitude of invaluable insights into the heritage sector. The majority of my experience took place remotely, though the initial meeting was in person. Before this placement, I had very little previous experience working in a cultural space. I had also never been to the town of Beverley, let alone St Mary’s Church. I can say with certainty that St Mary’s is unlike any other parish church I have ever stepped foot in. Upon entering, you are greeted with the most fantastic, rich blue ceilings depicting various constellations and boasting perhaps the most interesting array of roof bosses in England. That is what sets this church apart:its vibrant, well-kept and restored bursts of colour throughout the building. It’s like you’ve stepped into a fantastical world, full of beasts and kings of old.

As part of my studentship, I worked closely with St Mary’s Heritage Learning Officer, Dr Jennie England, to co-create an exhibition for the church. My goal was to highlight all of these whimsical and vivid pieces within the building that make up its dynamic history as a cornerstone of Beverley society. Through daily virtual meetings with Dr England, I was given the freedom to explore the stories of the church that spoke to me and collaborate to share these through banners to be placed around St Mary’s. From the sculpture of a hare said to have influenced Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit character, to a colourfully painted pillar depicting the Beverley Minstrels Guild, we worked together to shed light on these little details that make up the magic of St Mary’s.

Two anthropomorphic rabbits - stone (left) and ink drawing (right)

Left to right: the Pilgrim Rabbit at St Mary's Church, Beverley (photo: © Amanda Musolf); and the White Rabbit by John Tenniel, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865 (Public Domain).

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from Dr England, who helped in teaching me the differences between writing for an academic audience, as opposed to an exhibition audience. She helped me hone my skills for this, as well as what to focus on to reach a wider variety of viewers. My tasks expanded my skillset as well as working in tandem with my MA in Medieval Art & Medievalisms. While doing things out of my comfort zone, I never felt inadequate or out of place.

I will be returning to St Mary’s Church, Beverley in order to view the exhibition as it comes to fruition in the coming months. I would once again like to thank Dr Jennie England, as well as St Mary’s and the University of York for awarding me this priceless experience in my desired field.

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