Jan 18th 2019

Spotlight on: Si Durrant, Trainee Curator at Wheal Martyn Clay Works


We catch up with Si Durrant at Wheal Martyn, one of the Trainee Curators supported by Cornwall Museums Partnership’s NPO programme, to talk about his showcase ‘Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns’.

“I am now halfway through my placement as Wheal Martyn’s Trainee Curator. My role at Wheal Martyn primarily involves assisting Jo (Curator) and Nikita (Exhibition and Engagement Officer) with unlocking stories from the collection and archives held at Wheal Martyn. As a Trainee Curator, I have been gaining valuable on-the-job experience and attending training sessions at partner museums across Cornwall. I have already seen great variety in the role of a museum Curator. This has included an introduction to museum accreditation, health and safety training, record keeping, working with schools, collections handling, collections hazards, digitising negatives and, more recently, combining these new skills to curate my first ever showcase exhibition.”

“‘Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns’, features a selection of curios from the St. Austell china clay area, with each display telling a unique community story from the last 200 years. Village shops, sports, housing, clothing, forgotten trades, industry, and the impact of two World Wars are represented in the extensive collection.”

“The theme of the showcase is stories from our villages and towns. The majority of our collection focuses on the industrial heritage of the china clay industry; however, buried within these c.10,000 items are certain objects that hold hidden stories about a specific area of the local community. For example, our Rolls Royce figurine and mould represents the relationship between the village of St. Dennis and the Aerospace Industry. In fact, this item has just been nominated for an award – Cornish Object of the Year 2019.”

“My research for the showcase began with a map of the St. Austell china clay district – an area which is bounded by St. Austell Bay in the south and the A390 to the north. This map revealed over 50 villages and hamlets that were in close proximity to clay workings. Once I had a list of villages, I was able to search our onsite database for relevant objects, documents, photographs and film. Over the course of several weeks I was able to shortlist these items and then research the stories behind them. Finally, these stories were condensed into a display in the museum atrium and weekly social media posts.”

“I have really enjoyed the huge variety this internship has offered me and greatly look forward to the next three months.”

Colin Vallance, Director of Wheal Martyn says, “It’s been fantastic to have Si as part of the team, uncovering some of the many stories that are hidden within our museum collection and sharing these with our local communities and visitors. Si’s internship is part funded by the European Social Fund, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council, as part of a Cornwall Museums Partnership NPO programme and we are very grateful for their support.”

‘Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns’ is free to enter and runs until the end of February 2019. The showcase coincides with Wheal Martyn’s Cornwall Residents’ Pass Offer; for 12 months, admission passes are available at a reduced price of just £6.50 for an adult ticket.

Wheal Martyn would like to encourage visitors during January and February to discover some of these fascinating stories linked to local villages and towns. If you are inspired to share stories from your own village, pop into the museum, email info@wheal-martyn.com or share them on Facebook (@whealmartyncw).

For more information about the Cornish Object of the Year Award 2019 and to vote click here.

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