In our latest blog series, we join Museum Development Officer, Steph, as she travels around the Duchy delivering the highly-anticipated certificates and trophies to the winners of the 2020 Cornwall Heritage Awards. Following our virtual awards ceremony in October we are thrilled to be able to deliver these awards to their recipients in person. Buckle up and join us for the road trip…
In this final instalment of our Heritage Awards road trip, I have to confess I cheated a bit. Much as it would have been lovely to head on down to Porthcurno on a glorious summer day, I sent the trophy down with Charlotte and Jenna on one of their visits. Saving on fuel miles and consciously thinking about the carbon footprint of our working activities is particularly pertinent as PK Porthcurno was the winner of the Contribution to the Environment and Circular Economy Award for larger museums.
Planet PK is the environmental programme running through the organisation, and it won in 2020 specifically for their wildflower planting and beekeeping activities, thanks to dedicated beekeepers like Paddy and David. It’s not a one-off project and continues to grow, so I asked Aletha, PK Porthcurno’s Marketing and Communications Manager, what the impact of winning the award had been and what’s been happing since:
“We were thrilled to win at the Cornwall Heritage Awards for ‘Contribution to the Environment and Circular Economy’ through our environmental programme ‘Planet PK’.
Wildflower planting in collaboration with Eden Project and installing beehives onto unused land has significantly improved local biodiversity.
Recent focus has been on partnership working towards ‘Plastic Free Community’ status with Surfers Against Sewage for Porthcurno – setting up a steering group including the National Trust, Cornwall AONB, Cornwall Council, Minack Theatre, Porthcurno Beach Café, and local-residents. This has included organising regular community beach cleans.
With help from Arts Council England and Cornwall AONB, our ‘Lights Out for Darker Skies’ exhibition supports the Penwith application to become an International Dark Sky Park.
Planet PK has highlighted the diverse wildlife in Porthcurno as well as increased awareness of the environmental pressures faced due to the area’s popularity. Our bi-monthly Young Curators blog includes updates from our night-time wildlife camera courtesy of Tevi Cornwall. Planet PK have hosted digital takeovers and features for the likes of BBC Springwatch, The Wildlife Trusts, Finisterre Broadcast, and Visit Cornwall.”
As a museum of communication, PK Porthcurno finds itself ideally placed to engage and educate customers, suppliers and the general public on environmental sustainability, as indeed are all museums. The forthcoming 2022 Heritage Awards will give all museums an opportunity to shout about the positive actions they are taking to tackle the climate crisis, however big or small.
Back to the road trip, Jody and I did make an in-person visit to Mevagissey and District Museum (which may also have involved an ice cream by the harbour) to present a Highly Commended certificate for Contribution to the Environment and Circular Economy and a winner’s trophy for the Innovation Award. Both awards were for the Septimus ‘Some Seal’ Exhibition, produced in partnership with Three Bays Wildlife and Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust.
The museum demonstrated innovative practice within this project with several firsts, notably that this was the first temporary exhibition the museum has hosted. It’s not easy trying something new, but the museum team learned a lot that will make their practice more sustainable in future: how to navigate the exhibition process, how to change the space in the museum, how to make a new offer and how to work with large school groups. The lasting impact of the project has been to give the volunteers confidence that they can undertake something similar again and that they can explore different aspects of Mevagissey’s cultural heritage to attract and engage new and existing audiences. Just like PK Porthcurno, Mevagissey’s museum has a voice to influence its community and visitors, and this voice is amplified by working with local partners.
The highlight of our visit to Mevagissey was meeting Christ, Didge, Jane and Jeremy, and having a sneaky look around the museum before it reopens. All museums have dealt with the pandemic in different ways, and for Mevagissey this has meant not reopening until this autumn. But they have not been idle! They have used the time without visitors to carry out a number of improvements and renovations to the building’s exterior, interior and large objects in the collection – the whole place looks smart and loved. We wish the museum and its volunteers all the best of luck for reopening and for a forthcoming Crowdfunder to finish off repairs to the roof.
I can’t possibly have a favourite visit from this road trip – meeting everyone who has contributed to making a difference to people’s lives through Cornwall’s heritage has been thoroughly inspiring. My last visit to Geevor Tin Mine epitomised this. It was my great pleasure to present the Heritage Heroes Award to Jack and Josh of the Mucker and Loco Restoration Team. If you want to meet two young men with passion for what they do, I suggest you go and have a chat with them while they’re hard at work at Geevor on Wednesdays. You’ll learn, as I did, what muckers and locos are, why they’re important, how they are at risk of deterioration and the work that goes in to painstakingly restoring and preserving them. You might even get a demo from Jack’s dad, Kevin. Ask them about trains too.
Both Josh and Jack have Autism and have known each other since college. They’ve both been volunteering at Geevor for several years undertaking various pieces of work, but it seems they’ve found their true calling for the last three years in restoring mining machinery together. The pandemic paused work for a bit and the day of my visit was the first time Josh had been back on site since March last year. Jack and Josh and their other college friends had kept in touch via Zoom, but it was great to see them back in action. You wouldn’t know they hadn’t been working together for so long – they were busy getting stuck into treating a truck and super happy to chat to me about what they love doing. Their commitment and confidence was truly wonderful, and I’d like to thank them for their dedication to caring for Cornwall’s mining heritage and congratulate them on all their achievements. Josh and Jack, you are official heritage heroes!
Road tripping was fun, but I’m very much looking forward to the 2022 Cornwall Heritage Awards and – fingers crossed – being able to celebrate in person. Museums, galleries and heritage organisations in Cornwall, look out for details of the awards to be released next month. I’m so looking forward to sharing and celebrating almost two years’ worth of inspiring excellence!
– Stephanie Clemens, Museum Development Officer