Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Next Steps

Looking Back-

Creating A Stir successfully engaged Gressenhall Museum with lots of traditionally hard-to-reach groups. The immediate and local legacy of the project is threefold: 
  • an increased awareness of (and visits to) our museum from those groups and others like them 
  • an increased sense of ownership of the museum from local people
  • an increased understanding of real life for different types of people living and working in the Victorian Workhouse. 

Participants in the project will also have been encouraged to think about the contemporary relevance of issues we spoke about, such as poverty, rural isolation, institutionalisation, the welfare state and so on.  

A particularly strong outcome for Creating a Stir was the new working relationship built between Gressenhall Museum and HMP Wayland. Piloting this simple model in which museums are shown to work so positively with prisons has potential for much wider significance: watch this space!

And Looking Forward-

My next Learning & Engagement Project is called 'Brick By Brick'. There will be three parts to each session:

  • Groups will visit Gressenhall to look at the fabric of the beautiful Georgian building and how it changed after 1834 to accommodate the new Poor Law, including the graffiti left by the residents. 
  • We'll also be thinking about the intended function of walls in general; how they protect, divide, exclude, group, isolate, support, imprison and so on. 
  • Finally we'll be thinking about the invisible walls that people build around themselves. We all hold secrets, and things are rarely the same on the inside as they seem on the outside. Participants will each make and decorate a cardboard brick, putting a secret, a wish or a memory inside it, and sealing it up.

Oooooooh, sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Please contact me if you are in Norfolk and you'd like to visit with your group!

Spoons 7- and so it continued...

During the early part of 2016 I continued to work on Creating a Stir with twenty very disparate groups. 

Those involved included museums visitors, youth groups, staff and volunteers, a Brownie Guide group, groups for the elderly, library groups and people of all ages with mental, physical and psychological additional needs from all over Norfolk. Some local publicity when I visited King's Lynn Museum is available here.

We revisited HMP Wayland as planned and worked with another PIPE group and a group from the Personality Disorder Unit. Our model for working with HM Prisons looks likely to be rolled out throughout the county, and potentially beyond, as part of the national Museums in Prisons initiative.

Every group was different and I learned to assess their likely needs and abilities very quickly on arrival. I learned that flexibility of my delivery style, along with clear communication between myself and the group leader, was critical to the success of each session.

There were 248 workhouse inmates listed on the 1871 census. My target was to represent all of them by making at least that number of spoon dolls, but to aim for 300. The final total?

367 !!!!!


This means I have worked with well over 300 individuals on the project (a few participants made more than one spoon doll- and a few got sent in). An excellent result.

I devised and delivered the 'Creating a Stir' project in my role of Learning & Engagement Officer for the Voices From The Workhouse redevelopment. 

'Creating a Stir' has enabled the stories, objects and documents relating to Gressenhall Workhouse to engage with a greater and more varied audience than any of us expected. My numerous participants also had the opportunity to
get involved in hands-on learning about the workhouse. They also tell me they are delighted to be able to make a tangible contribution to the redisplay thereby gaining a sense of ownership of this major local landmark. 

Every single spoon doll will be displayed when the workhouse museum re-opens- do come along and see the miniature throng! Oh, er, yes, and the new galleries, of course...

I took photos of all the spoon people; sometimes in groups, and sometimes individually. All these photos will be on display, in addition to the dolls, at the Grand Re-Opening of the Workhouse displays this summer. In the meantime here are a few more...

 And finally... we all had fun!