The Firm Foundations Programme is a four-day masterclass for people about to embark on a capital development project in the heritage sector.
Firm Foundations offers delegates the opportunity to learn from respected professionals, to have candid and exclusive insights into the industry and how it works, from procurement and project management to risk management and contracting.
Delegates will be able to share ideas and challenges in a supportive, confidential environment, and draw support from experts and peers.
Our team of professionals with extensive experience in developing and delivering heritage projects, will show you how to prepare, plan, deliver and sustain a successful capital project.
In the below film, Elisa Harris of Krowji, who took part in Firm Foundations last year (2018), talks about her experience of the programme and how it helped her take on and deliver a more effective and impactful capital project.
The Emerging Voices bursary supports museum volunteers or emerging professionals to undertake training, research or placement opportunities that enhance their skills and bring new benefits to their host museum.
Becki Brattin and Katie Bunnell decided to apply for the bursary following their experience as Citizen Curators at Falmouth Art Gallery. They have been awarded the bursary to continue developing their project, “Gut Reaction” which focuses on audience responses to the Margaret Whitford Bequest, a collection of 48 contemporary prints and a sculpture acquired by the gallery through the Artfund.
The collection is remarkably vibrant and graphically strong and while individual pieces have been on display, relatively little is known about the provenance of the collection as a whole. Through their research on Margaret as the source of these collected works, Becki and Katie have discovered there are another 25 pieces located in 8 museums and galleries in the UK.
For this post Becki and Katie have answered three key questions:
Why did you want to continue your “Gut Reaction” Citizen Curators project?
K: With the continuing support of Falmouth Art Gallery, the Emerging Voices Bursary will enable us to pursue research threads we have discovered through the Citizen Curators project, visit the other pieces in Margaret’s collection, find out what we can about their provenance and to chase stories as they emerge.
For us, the idea that it is possible to have a felt, physical reaction to an artwork is fundamental to enabling everyone to respond to art in their own way. From what we have read about Margaret we understand that this was her approach to choosing art and have used this as the basis for our “Gut Reaction” project. We would like to continue to develop this idea through the creation of the digital exhibit and for workshops that connect to it.
B: Our initial Citizen Curators project took quite a natural progression after learning more about Margaret once we spoke to some of her friends about the type of person she was within her professional and personal life. We are now faced with learning a whole lot more information about Margaret’s further collection which is spread around the UK. It seemed very obvious to try and bring an awareness of Margaret’s other pieces together, in this case through a digital experience – building a portrait of a female Cornish collector and celebrating the collection in its entirety.
What are your hopes and expectations for this project?
B: I’m hoping we can do the collection justice and bring about a beautiful digital exhibition with a very ambitious idea of perhaps, bringing some or all pieces together for a physical exhibition (one day!) Also, I will be keen to explore how we will be able to bring to the surface a little about who a female collector is? Is it important, and if so, how does this stance affect galleries today or previously?
We are expecting to document our journey within the project through the use of blogs, vlogs, Podcasts and Instagram. Hopefully building an informative and enjoyable journey for all to evaluate.
K: I think that the Emerging Voices Bursary opens the possibility of seeing Margaret’s dispersed collection, hopefully bringing it together as a digital exhibit that can be shared with many. Personally, I am really interested in trying to see it from her perspective, to understand a bit more about her motivations as a collector and how this relates to her work as a feminist philosopher, and one who started life in a Methodist community in Cornwall.
Why do you think it will be useful to Falmouth Art Gallery?
K: I think it is a great opportunity to try out new ways of creating a digital exhibit, using the story of the collector as a way in to seeing this dispersed collection as a whole. We would like to develop the digital exhibit as a tool that enables audiences to think about and respond to the artworks and the business of collecting from their own perspectives.
B: Falmouth Art Gallery is very fortunate to be the custodians of such a beautiful and vibrant set of prints from the Margaret Whitford Bequest; we like to think that our project will help to raise the profile of the bequest and give the community and beyond the chance to interact and access the collection as a whole, leaving a fantastic digital collection tool for all to explore alongside more extensive history files for Falmouth Art Gallery.
“Collaborative leadership needs people who can be open, flexible and responsive.”
For the last four years, Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) has been helping museums across the county become more open and connected to the people they serve. We set out with a clear aim to effect some fundamental changes by creating a collaborative culture within our own charity and across the museum sector in Cornwall. As an infrastructure charity that doesn’t run or own any museums, influencing ‘beyond authority’ is core to our approach. We believe that the power lies in the team.
Emmie Kell, CEO of Cornwall Museums Partnership, has recently written an article sharing ten things she learned about creating a collaborative culture over the last few years.
Cornwall Museums Partnership and FEAST are challenging museums and artists to work together to generate original ideas for bringing more and different people into the museums of Cornwall to enjoy Cornwall’s unique heritage. For the third year, we are offering a joint small grants fund to enable the best ideas to be tested and delivered.
To get a better idea of the diverse range of projects that have enjoyed Bright Sparks support, here are the museums and artists who were successful last year.
Students visited the museum and interviewed local trustees and experts to investigate the islands’ rich heritage and changing fortunes over the past four thousand years.
The resulting guide for visiting families includes a young persons’ perspective on Scilly’s past, reflections on growing up on Cornwall’s islands and suggested activities linked to local culture and heritage.
Wish You Were Here
‘Wish You Were Here’ took as its starting point the idea of providing a winter escape for the residents of two nursing homes in Helston and the Lizard.
The Museum of Cornish Life worked with artist Susanna Webster, who brought to the project her creativity and experience working with residents in care homes, memory cafes and community settings in Cornwall. Together they designed a series of virtual visits to the museum using FaceTime. On these visits the residents were able to explore the museum and build relationships with the staff and volunteers without needing to travel.
This project allowed visitors who wouldn’t normally enjoy the museum to do so, and as a result of taking part, the nursing home residents became more comfortable using FaceTime and Skype to communicate with their own families. The museum purchased an iPad which they continue to use to help visitors engage with their collection.
The Looe Diehards
This project focussed on a little-known period in Looe’s history, the establishment in 1803 of the East and West Looe Volunteer Artillery during the Napoleonic era. The project wanted to remember this difficult time when the towns were despoiled of its trade by the threat of war and how the community came together.
The Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol worked with Sue Field, a local maker, community artist, and storyteller to help bring this story to life through the interplay of puppets as exhibits and animated characters. Archive material was used to write the stories of the Looe Diehard men, exquisite puppets of Captain Thomas Bond and Fisherman volunteer Pengelly were hand crafted and the museum’s team of volunteers were trained in their operation.
Building audiences and providing engaging and meaningful interactions is essential for the future of the museum and its collections. Through projects like this, The Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol can continue to promote and engage people with their local heritage.
Redefining the Museum Label: New Voices
Falmouth Art Gallery has been working with artist Felicity Tattersall, whose drawing practice is inspired by hidden narratives in museums and archives, and Curator Charlotte Davis to deliver this exciting public engagement project.
A variety of community groups have been given the opportunity to learn about the function and use of museum labels. During these workshops they have been invited to create their own imaginative and experimental museum labels using unusual materials, creative writing, drawing and digital media. This project is about rethinking how people from the local community connect with the work that is in the Gallery.
The project will culminate in a public exhibition at Falmouth Art Gallery, a shared learning digital event and an open call for everyone to come and create their own label for a piece in the collection.
Remembering People from the Past
This is a collaborative project between Lostwithiel Museum and creative researcher Amanda Davidge, using the museum archives and collection to discover more about lives of important people from Lostwithiel’s past.
To begin with the team decided to research the fascinating life of Frances Hext (1819-1896) who had lived in the town and written a book Memorials of Lostwithiel (and of Restormell):collected and contributed. Amanda ran workshops with the museum volunteers to create assemblage memory boxes, family trees and journals to illustrate her life in a large display.
Following this, family history workshops will be offered to the wider community who wish to investigate the town’s history as well as their personal family history and create their own ‘story boxes’.
We are looking for genuine innovation and collaboration between the artist(s) and museum, and for ideas which would appeal to a broad range of the community. We are inviting proposals for creative projects which spark interest in what museums have to offer: we want more people interested in their heritage and more people doing or experiencing something creative.
We are offering a number of small grants of up to £2,500. The project must involve some form of tangible activity or event with which the community can get involved.
Selection of successful projects will be made by a panel of FEAST and Cornwall Museum Partnership directors and a member of each organisation’ s board or advisory group. Thedeadline for applications is 27th October 2019 and decisions will be announced shortly afterwards.
To apply, please download and complete the application form below.
The Royal Cornwall Museum Pride Project is a rolling programme which started in 2017. It strives to uncover neglected heritage stories of LGBTQ Cornwall and is an integral platform offering queer events across the Cornish community.
Evidence of sexuality and gender fluidity have often been neglected in history. This is not through lack of evidence in which diversity existed, but representative of how political views can shape the histories being communicated. As a result, queer stories were often ‘straightened out’ or smoothed over, which meant an open discussion of sexuality in history didn’t exist.
The Museums ongoing pride project began with attending Cornwall Pride in 2017. This was followed by a year-long research project into queer history in Cornwall, culminating in a BBC Radio Cornwall series where different queer figures from Cornish history were discussed in the run up to pride 2018.
Publicising these historical queer stories from Cornish history challenges the heteronormativity of historiography, as many of the historical stories discussed in the series are well known local people who have been detached from their queer identity, such as Daphne Du Maurier. It is vital to remember the importance of championing these stories and to offer them a platform of validating Cornish history as queer history, as prejudice is still prevalent in many forms today.
At Cornwall Pride in 2018 we took along a video recorder and asked attendees why pride in Cornwall was important to them. This contemporary collecting created a snapshot of queer identity which has now been accessioned into the Museums’ permanent collections. This was a significant step for the Royal Cornwall Museum as previously, nothing in the collection (a collection of over 500,000 objects) had been noted as LGBTQ. Despite a 200-year long presence in Cornwall, 2018 was the first time an openly queer object was accessioned.
In 2019, the Museum will be promoting gender fluidity in Cornish History where it will be exploring the stories of Gluck, Samuel Foote, Marlow Moss and many more.
Some may see the museum’s presence at Cornwall Pride as unexpected. The RCM is the first Museum of its time, in Cornwall, to attend Cornwall Pride. Statements such as ‘I did not expect the Royal Cornwall Museum to be at Pride’ and ‘I didn’t think the Museum would be the kind of place to support us’ were often heard. This is exactly the sort of appearance the RCM and historical institutions across the UK are endeavouring to break free from; the National Trust took a big step in exploring queer stories associated with their properties and the V&A have LGBTQ tours of the galleries.
Museums are not intended to be a neutral space and are there to inform and be open to interpretation, acting for and with everyone. The Museum is working hard on celebrating diversity by actively expanding the programme to become more inclusive, and by working with community groups. The Royal Cornwall Museum’s Pride project sends a message of acceptance, it allows the museum to welcome everybody and allows people to interact with their heritage in a way they possibly couldn’t or wouldn’t have before.
This August the Museum will host a week-long pride event featuring:
An evening with local drag act Roxie Moron on Wednesday 17 August.
A talk by Dan Vo, who founded the award-winning volunteer-led LGBTQ Tours at V&A, London and developed Bridging Binaries for University of Cambridge Museums. He works with museums and galleries to shine a light on objects which explore gender and sexual identities through a queer lens.
If you would like to get involved in the Museums Pride project, please apply to be a Citizen Curator with the Museum, as part of the programme will support the Pride project.
Read more on The Hidden Histories of Cornwall’s Queer Community here!
– Sophie Meyer Marketing and Digital Lead, Royal Cornwall Museum
In the latest installment of our ‘Spotlight on’ blog posts, we hear from Nikita Brown, Exhibition and Engagement Officer at Wheal Martyn Clay Works near St. Austell, about the importance of accessibility in museums.
I believe that museums should act as community hubs, where all members of the community feel confident and safe to voice their opinions and take ownership of the museum and its collections. Improving accessibility is one way I can ensure that all visitors feel welcome at Wheal Martyn and have a fantastic museum experience.
So, what have we been doing at Wheal Martyn?
As Exhibition and Engagement Officer, my first priority was to improve the overall access to the museum for a general visit. Making small changes to the museum has allowed staff to work with more community groups and enhance the visitor experience for those with additional needs, whether this is creating visual stories for people with autism and anxiety, or simply changing how a gate opens to make it more wheelchair accessible.
At Wheal Martyn we have been working with partner organisations to seek expert advice and ensure our accessible information is easy to use. We are fortunate to be one of around twenty heritage destinations taking part in Heritage Ability’s, Heritage Lottery Funded project, which looks to improve accessibility and inclusivity in historical sites. Working in partnership with Heritage Ability, the museum now has a new Easy Read Guide making the site’s information easy to understand for those with learning difficulties, as well as a digital British Sign Language (BSL) tour of the site which can be viewed on YouTube or via a tablet at the museum.
I also received training from Heritage Ability on disability and deaf awareness which I have been able to replicate with other museum staff. We are fortunate to have fantastic, friendly staff at Wheal Martyn who are always willing to go above and beyond to improve visitor’s experience. The training has equipped them with relevant knowledge about how best to help all visitors, regardless of disability or need. It also highlighted the benefits of making small adaptations, such as having hearing loops, which we purchased two of to go in the reception and café.
Becoming an autism-friendly museum
I’m passionate about making attractions and historical sites more autism-friendly, so this was another one of my top priorities when I started working at Wheal Martyn. I started by creating two visual stories of the museum. Visual stories use images and words to show visitors with autism the layout of the museum and what to expect before visiting. An example being how the café can sometimes be busy and have strong smells. Visual stories are really easy to do, so I would encourage all historical sites to give it a go. Once I had finished the visual stories, I then had them checked by Spectrum, who specialise in Autistic Spectrum Disorders, to make sure they were useful for this group of people. I would really recommend seeking expert opinion where possible, as their advice was incredibly helpful and even though I was often on the right lines, it was great to get this confirmed by professionals.
With guidance from Spectrum, I created a quiet space at Wheal Martyn with comfy sofas and bean bags to allow people an area to chill out, if the museum gets too overwhelming for them. Visitors with sensory disorders can also use our sensory backpack, which includes ear defenders, fiddle toys and a sensory game. It’s great to see these bags being used around the site and we have received a lot of positive feedback from our visitors who have enjoyed using them.
In March 2019, Wheal Martyn held its first relaxed opening session which allows families to explore the museum at a quieter pace. Although only a few families attended the first session, the impact the session had on one of the families was huge. It gave them the confidence to return to Wheal Martyn with their extended family during the Easter holidays, giving them an opportunity to enjoy being together as a family. The relaxed sessions take place every quarter, with our next sessions taking place on Saturday 19 October and Saturday 18 January.
Encouraging social group meetings at the museum
With help from our fantastic, committed volunteers, we have started running two new social prescribing groups held at the museum. Arts and Craft for Health which runs every Tuesday morning and a Sensory Garden group which will launch in September. Both groups aim to give those struggling with mental illness or other long term health conditions, the opportunity to develop their confidence and skills in a safe and friendly environment.
The Arts and Craft group consists of participants bringing along their own craft which they would like to work on during the sessions and they have the option of asking the coordinator for help and advice. What I have personally enjoyed witnessing is the participants sharing their craft skills with each other. I am always amazed at how caring and supportive these groups are and I have definitely learned lots of new craft skills from the participants myself!
We have artists regularly holding specialised workshops with the participants, so they have the opportunity to learn a new skill and explore the museum in a new way. Recently, the group has taken part in a sound workshop with artist Justin Wiggan and have even made their own bricks with the Brickfields project (a Whitegold initiative). As Wheal Martyn has an extensive brick collection, it was great to explore these stories in a new way with the participants and everyone was pleased with their brick designs.
The impact the sessions have on the participants is clear to see; confidence is growing, friendships have been formed and the group is always filled with laughter and support for each other. One of the participants who hadn’t drawn since he was at school, has enjoyed the sessions so much, that he has started up his own group on a different day. We also have a Memory Café which meets every second Monday of the month for people suffering from memory loss and their carers. The group consists of a range of informal arts, crafts and reminiscence activities, as well as a nice chat and cuppa!
Looking to the future
Wheal Martyn has a lot more planned over the next few months. Whether it is working with the Sensory Trust to create a sensory map and bespoke workshops for children with additional needs, or trialing live streaming of events to make them more accessible for those who can’t get to the museum. Perhaps the most exciting has to be the opening of our new facilities in April 2020, as part of the Clay Works project which will include a new gallery for temporary exhibitions, a new learning and activity space and a new permanent exhibition on the ‘Transport of China Clay’. The new improvements will also include a lift to access the exhibition space, meaning that more areas of Wheal Martyn will become accessible for wheelchairs.
I aim to embed accessibility in all areas of my work which includes temporary exhibitions where I try to ensure that all senses are stimulated through having a range of different interactives. I think my main learning from the last year is the importance of working with partner organisations for help and advice. Everyone I have contacted has been happy to help and are incredibly passionate about making more sites accessible. If you would like any more information about the projects mentioned above, then I am more than happy to share my learning with other museums.
Over the last few months, we are delighted to have welcomed a few new faces to the CMP team. Here is a great chance to get to know a bit about them and their role.
Oliver Scott – Senior Digital Engagement Officer
Oliver has joined our team as maternity cover for Jenny Lee.
Oliver explores digital within our Museum and Gallery community. Providing guidance and encouragement in digital communication and access. At CMP he is covering the role of Digital Coordinator. Coordinating the Digital Engagement Group, Digital Lending Library and Digital Commissions. Supporting digital engagement with the community, and using digital to renew our internal communication methods, displays and approach to collecting.
Oliver works one week a month at CMP. He also works at Falmouth Art Gallery and Penlee House Gallery & Museum, developing their online presence. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fun Fact! Oliver loves to cook outdoors in remote places for large groups of friends.
Karen Little – Office Manager
Karen is the Office Manager for Cornwall Museums Partnership; her role is to ensure the smooth running of office systems and procedures. Her tasks include; ensuring the office is compliant with current regulations and best practice; supporting Emmie in her role as CEO and being the first point of contact for visitors and callers.
Karen has a drama degree and following a period as a physical theatre practitioner moved into administration. Most recently working in an inner-city primary school as the Business Manager, she has extensive experience as an Office/Business Manager in the charitable and education sectors.
Fun Fact! Karen practices mixed media and textile art her current obsession is weaving on a lap loom.
Celine Elliott – Engagement Lead
Celine is Cornwall Museum Partnership’s Engagement Lead. Having joined in 2019, Celine leads our programme of engagement support for museums in Cornwall and Scilly.
With a degree in Fine Arts and a decade of experience in Youth and Community Work, having enrolled on a Master’s degree in Museums, Galleries & Heritage Studies, Celine applies her creative and community-centered approach to the sector.
With previous experience working with collections in the North, returning to Cornwall has allowed Celine to focus her attention on the diverse and inspirational organisations which make up the museum community in the region.
Fun Fact! Celine enjoys spending her free time exploring Cornwall with her whippet, Tess.
Amy Shakespeare – wAVE Community Project Manager
Amy is the Project Manager for the wAVE Immersive Experiences in Museums Project, funded by the Coastal Communities Fund. Working in partnership with Falmouth University and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, the project will create augmented and virtual experiences at five museums in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
During her History degree at the University of Exeter, Amy worked at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. After graduating, she went on to work for the National Trust in visitor experience at Godolphin, the Tin Coast, and the West Cornwall portfolio. She originally joined the CMP team in 2018 as our Marketing and Impact Officer.
Amy is a trustee for Kids in Museums and South West Museums Association Rep, and was a Clore Emerging Leader in 2019. In her spare time, she is completing a Masters in Heritage and Interpretation.
Fun Fact! Last year Amy appeared on BBC’s ‘The Big Family Cooking Showdown’ with her boyfriend and his mum. (Apparently, they didn’t do very well!)
Jody Woolcock – Marketing and Impact Officer
Jody is the Marketing and Impact Officer of Cornwall Museums Partnership and spends her time developing, coordinating and managing marketing campaigns to help increase support for museums, as well as increasing participation in CMP’s partnership services. Jody works on various projects and looks after the CMP social media pages and website.
Working previously in the marketing department of a predominantly rural-based insurance company, and through living in Cornwall her entire life, Jody has a great interest and keenness to learn more about the county and its surrounding heritage.
Fun Fact! Jody spends her free time walking and blogging about her beloved Cornwall and is the founder of walking group, Cornish Ramblings. Jody once hiked up the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, twice in one day!
Firm Foundations part two started at the beautiful Tate St Ives. It was great to catch up with everyone again after a three-month gap. The lightning talks in the morning were quite different from the first time around with everyone speaking much more confidently about their projects.
The morning session was focussed on planning permission and building regulations, with a really useful workshop run by representatives from Cornwall Council in which we were able to ask direct questions e.g. What counts as a non-material amendment? and What requires a resubmission to planning? This was followed by a sneak preview of the Anna Boghiguian show with Sara Matson, Senior Curator at Tate St. Ives, which was a rather special added bonus!
In the afternoon the course covered procurement and value engineering and the day was topped off with a delicious evening meal in the Tate’s Clore Sky studio. We were privileged to be joined by Marketing Manager Arwen Fitch and Andy Bruton who chatted with us openly about their experience of the capital redevelopment – the highs, the lows and the lessons learned.
Andy Bruton giving a talk at Firm Foundations
Day 2 was held at Porthmeor Studios and this is where we got into the nitty-gritty of the construction process. It has to be said that by the afternoon we were all suffering a bit from information overload and it was helpful to be reminded that we don’t have to be experts in every field, the project manager you appoint is there to guide you through the process.
The final session was led by Chris Hibbert, Manager of the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust, who managed the £4 million renovation of Porthmeor Studios. He gave an inspirational talk and a tour of the studios which a great way of demonstrating how everything we’d learnt could be put into practice.
We were all a bit sad when the course came to an end but we’ve agreed to stay in touch and will be planning a reunion at Krowji towards the end of our Phase 2 redevelopment project, which is now underway!
For many people, working in a museum might sound like a dream job. I was one of those people (and indeed I still am), but this week I have been lucky enough to find the only job that is even better – working across several museums, for the wonderful Cornwall Museums Partnership. My name is Nick Collins and I’ve been here for an all-too-brief secondment from the University of Exeter as part of their Professional Pathways programme. I’ve visited museums and galleries across the county this week, and below I’m going to share my thoughts on the amazing exhibitions they’re running at the moment. There’s another theme I’d also like to share. I’ve been trying to show how we can be greener in our museum visits, and help to reduce congestion on Cornwall’s roads, which will be as busy as ever this summer. I’ve travelled to all of these exhibitions using nothing more than public transport and my trusty steed (a bicycle, not a horse). But more on that in a moment…
On Monday, I started at Penlee House to seeMunnings in Cornwall, an exhibition which will take regulars there from the familiar territory of the early Newlyn School into the perhaps less familiar territory of the later Newlyn School, whilst also introducing new visitors to the beauty and humanity of this school of painting. It is that humanity which really shines through in this exhibition – perhaps ironically, given that its principle subject, Alfred Munnings, is best-known for painting horses. But, whatever the paintings, show, we have to remember that it was people who made them, and this exhibition tells those people’s stories with touching sensitivity. Often, the glimpses we get of artists’ lives are startlingly intimate. Munnings’ painting coat, palette and brushes are here, as are examples of his letters and sketchbooks and his beautiful poem to Jessica Heath. Harold Knight’s portrait of Munnings dominates the entrance to the exhibition, portraying only a few hints of the alleged tension between the two. It is one of three portraits of Munnings, another being a self-deprecating, caricatured self-portrait. Munnings’ contemporaries dominate the next two rooms, with Harold and Laura Knight, Samuel John “Lamorna” Birch, Frank Gascoigne Heath and Charles W. Simpson particularly prominent. They give us a wonderful insight into the world of the Newlyn School’s less-famous later stages.
Come Tuesday, and we made the longest trip of the week, all the way up to Bodmin (yes, by public transport!) to Cornwall’s Regimental Museum. Have a look at the video below this paragraph…
I wasn’t joking, describing music as a great morale raiser. The army has known it for centuries, a story told with great insight and originality by CRM’s Citizen Curators, in their exhibition Music, Morale and the Military. There are some fantastic objects here, including the D Day dodgers’ banjo, carried by soldiers in Italy in the Second World War in ironic reference to the derogatory nickname forced on them; and a Light Infantry Drum, which ties in very well to the rest of the museum and the superb videos which allow former members of that regiment to tell its story in their own words. The real highlights, though, are the playable 1920s piano and the new recording of the DCLI Boys Marching Song (a local song probably not heard in almost 100 years), both of which make the exhibition a fantastic place to stay for a while and enjoy the atmosphere. The exhibition was created by the Citizen Curators, a group of five volunteers who put it together over a period of several months. The programme will be running again with new volunteers from October 2019 to April 2020 across several museums in Cornwall. Have a look at the previous blog post for much more information on that.
The equivalent Citizen Curators’ exhibition at Falmouth Art Gallery has finished (until the next one!), but the spirit of community curation is alive and well in their new exhibition Stuff and Nonsense,which I saw on Wednesday. There are several pieces of community-curated art and there will be more throughout the summer. There is also the chance for every single person who walks through the door to contribute, with visitors being asked to upload photos of their own “shrines” in response to those created for the exhibition, and also to leave their own found objects alongside those in the exhibition.
The Nonsense half of this
exhibition is brilliantly uplifting, featuring illustrations from Quentin Blake,
Tony Ross and Edward Lear which are sure to please children and to bring out
the child in the rest of us. There is even a woodblock used in the illustration
of Alice in Wonderland, alongside
Lewis Carrol’s diary, a real highlight. Several fantastic automata have also found
their way into the exhibition. Anyone who enjoys seeing these should also make
their way down to the library, housed in the same building, which features more,
including an enormous example based on Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books.
To return to the transport theme, Thursday presented an unusual challenge. Many people would see Portcurno Telegraph Museum as inaccessible by public transport, but there is in fact a bus which stops right outside it. Admittedly, the unusual challenge I mentioned was the fact that said bus broke down in St Buryan on the return journey, but I’m sure that doesn’t happen often… If the owner of St Buryan Caterers, who very kindly gave me a lift back to Penzance, is reading, thanks once again!
The Telegraph Museum itself is today perhaps more relevant than it’s ever been – as we live through our own communications revolution, it becomes ever more important to understand previous ones. At Porthcurno that story is told not only in terms of the technology (which is covered superbly through working objects and demonstrations) but the people who used and made it, whose lives are shown through their photos and possessions. The highlight is the spectacular Second World War bunker, filled with hundreds of artefacts, many of which are still working. The photo here is the escape stairs, a tunnel leading from the bunker all the way to the surface and beautiful views of the valley.
I finished the week just this morning at Royal Cornwall Museum for their exhibition Eye to the Sky exhibition, which tells the story of John Couch Adams, who predicted the discovery of Neptune, through Manga. It is an incredible story, and a highly innovative way of telling it. The Manga sits alongside more traditional museum objects, including a large celestial globe and the astonishingly-restored portrait of Adams, which has been transformed from quite literally having a hole in the unfortunate astronomer’s forehead to as good as new. Bringing both of these approaches together creates something far better than either style could have achieved alone.
So what have I learnt this week? A lot. More than I can really say. I’ve been lucky enough to work in museums before and if this experience has been an exception it’s because it’s been even better than those other times. Museums tell us stories, entertain us and make us think, but never has it been clearer to me than it has this week that they can also change lives. From the Citizen Curators who put on such wonderful exhibitions, some of whom have gone on to continued involvement in the heritage sector, to the home-educated children who I saw taking part in a workshop in Falmouth, I have come to understand that museums are about more than probably most people realise. They harness history and the arts as a positive force for the present, and it has been an honour to see how much difference that can make.
I would like to thank the University of Exeter for their part in organising this placement and for the stimulating and enlightening training I took part in there last week. Most of all, I can’t thank the people at CMP and all of the museums in the partnership enough. I hope to see you all again sometime.
Dr Tehmina Goskar is the Director of the Curatorial Research Centre and leads Cornwall Museums Partnership’s Citizen Curators programme. We are delighted that Tehmina has kindly written this blog to answer a few FAQs for anyone who is interested in taking part in the programme.
If you are interested in taking part in Year Two of Citizen Curators, here are some of your questions answered.
What is Citizen Curators?
Citizen Curators is a free work-based training programme in museum awareness and modern curatorial practice aimed at volunteers from our community. The programme is provided by Cornwall Museums Partnership in collaboration with seven museums. It is funded for three years by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund administered by the Museums Association. The Programme Leader is Dr. Tehmina Goskar, Curator & Director of the Curatorial Research Centre.
Each museum has five places. Each year there will be approximately 35 volunteers undertaking the Citizen Curators course.
What experience and qualifications do I need?
None. Just a thirst for learning, the ability to demonstrate your curiosity, and be willing to find things out for yourself. You should be able to commit the time needed to make the most of this opportunity. We encourage you bring and to talk about your existing skills and previous experience.
How much time do I have to spend on the programme?
You must attend the six core sessions: collections, communities, research, interpretation, communication and curating the Cornish National Collection. These will take place on a monthly basis from October. They will take place in one of the museums in your group. That means about one full day per month. In addition, you will be working on researching and creating content about the collections in your museum. This might be according to a brief set by the museum or it might be on something your group thinks is important. You can expect to commit to between 4 hours to 1 day per fortnight on this. You are welcome to volunteer more hours but this is entirely down to you and your museum. There are also optional opportunities such as field trips and discussion events you will be invited to take part in.
What kinds of things will interest me?
Museum collections contain a wealth of untapped knowledge, stories, and ideas from political events and abstract art to family history and science. Our museums are waiting for you to help them share that knowledge with different people. If you get excited by new discoveries, finding something out or asking probing questions then Citizen Curators is for you. The course will teach you how to curate thoughtfully and meaningfully. It will help you to see the relationship between knowledge creation and communication and you will gain a whole set of specific skills as a result.
This year the cohort will be invited to research collections to highlight new stories, particularly those of under-represented people and subjects. This will also include getting involved in the creation of a Cornish National Collection that will reflect the diversity of Cornish society past and present, while also highlighting our distinctive culture.
What do I need to do to sign up?
The seven participating museums are beginning to look for their next candidates. In the first instance, check out their websites and get in touch with the museum that most appeals to you. In due course, they will send you a questionnaire to complete and we will take it from there.
You can contact the museums participating in Citizen Curators by clicking the links below:
In March, Cornwall Museums Partnership and SW Museum Development hosted the annual Cornwall Heritage Awards to celebrate and champion the amazing work that’s taking place across museums in Cornwall.
In our final blog looking back at this year’s awards, we take a shine a light on the Cornish Object of the Year Award. This category was open to public vote and showcased some of the magnificent objects in museum collections across Cornwall.
Winner – Cornish Object of Year Award
The Gurney Stove – The Castle Heritage Centre Bude
The Gurney Stove – located at The Castle Heritage Centre, Bude – was one of the most successful inventions of Cornishman Sir Goldsworthy Gurney. A forerunner to the modern radiator, the stove had a unique design, resting in a trough of water that transmitted heat as it evaporated. The Gurney Stove heated over 10,000 churches, schools, and government buildings across the country including St. Paul’s Cathedral. There are still some working examples in cathedrals at Chester, Hereford and Tewkesbury.
Highly Commended – Cornish Object of the Year Award
The Bethlehem Pasty – Museum of Cornish Life, Helston
The Bethlehem Pasty – located at the Museum of Cornish Life, Helston – was carved from stone by William (Bill) Jewell in Bethlehem in 1943, when he was feeling homesick for Cornwall during WWII. Bill kept his handmade memento throughout his life. Bill’s family chose to donate the pasty along with photos, medals, and archive documents to the museum to keep his story going.
Cornish Miner’s Sweetheart Jewellery – Cornish Global Migration Programme
The Cornish Miner’s Sweetheart Jewellery – located at Cornish Global Migration Programme in Redruth – is a symbol of the ‘Great Cornish Diaspora’ where many Cornish men went to follow the lure of riches in gold rushes across the globe. Many sent home money made from their endeavours to support their extended families in Cornwall. The more successful migrants would send home artefacts such as jewellery.
The Penzance Market Cross – Penlee House Gallery and Museum
The Penzance Market Cross is a treasure of the town. Over 1000 years old, standing 7ft tall and weighing almost a ton, it is carved from a single slab of local granite. It currently sits outside Penlee House Gallery and Museum, the latest of seven locations around the town. In earlier times, the cross had inscriptions on all four sides, but centuries of weathering and erosion mean that these designs are now hard to make out.
St. Mary’s Church Clock Hand – Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol, Looe
The St. Mary’s Church Clock hand – located at The Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol – is from one of only two single-handed clocks found in Cornwall. Dating from the 1700s, St Mary’s Church in East Looe is a well-known landmark just a few metres from the beach. The clock on the church tower was made by John Belling of Bodmin, whose family later went into making domestic goods such as the “Baby Belling” cooker.
‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ Hood Ornament and Mould – Wheal Martyn
This example of Rolls Royce’s automotive icon is located at Wheal Martyn Clay Works and represents the enduring relationship between Cornish clay and the aerospace industry. Developed in Cornwall in the 1930s, Molochite from which the mould is constructed, would become an important element in the casting of turbines blades for jet engines. Due to this Rolls Royce would become one of Cornwall’s china clay industry’s most prestigious customers.
In March, Cornwall Museums Partnership and South West Museum Development hosted the annual Cornwall Heritage Awards to celebrate and champion the amazing work that’s taking place across museums and heritage organisations in Cornwall.
This week we are showcasing the Audience Initiative Award category, which highlights successful projects that reach and attract new audiences for heritage.
Audience Initiative Award – Winner (Larger Organisation)
Royal Cornwall Museum: RCM x Truro Foodbank Pilot Scheme
Following a conversation with a volunteer, Royal Cornwall Museum approached Truro Foodbank with the suggestion of including free-entry passes with food parcels over the summer holiday period. It was felt that those who might benefit most from the museum’s family-focused activities over the summer holidays were potentially being excluded by the entrance fee. The trial saw 80 passes handed out with a staggering 90% take-up rate, far surpassing expectations and delighting museum staff. The scheme gained local and national press coverage, leading to similar trials popping up across the UK.
Audience Initiative Award – Winner (Smaller Organisation)
St. Cubert Church: Sacred Land, Saints and Sand
Aiming to engage with new audiences who may not have visited before, St. Cubert Church ran a series of free workshops exploring some of the skills that feature in the church architecture, including stained glass and stone carving. The art workshops encouraged hands-on interaction with the heritage of the space, a chance to have some quiet time and to learn a new skill. Examples from the workshops also formed the basis of a handling box that was taken out for sessions in memory cafes and care homes, facilitating a church experience for those less able to access the space. The feedback from these sessions found that the participants enjoyed the interaction and generally felt happier afterwards.
Audience Initiative Award – Highly Commended (Larger Organisations)
Museum of Cornish Life, Helston: Can We Really Fit It In?
Spotting that the story of RNAS Culdrose in Helston was missing from the Museum of Cornish Life, a volunteer who also worked at the naval base, wondered if she could help fill that gap by creating a small display of archive material. After developing the relationship with RNAS Culdrose, the exhibition grew from a small display to a large temporary exhibition which included the tail-end of a Sea Hawk helicopter. The exhibition brought in a new audience to the museum, recognising the importance of the naval base to the history of Helston and Cornwall.
Cornwall’s Regimental Museum: Fun Palaces Bodmin
In 2018, Cornwall’s Regimental Museum took part in the Fun Palaces campaign for cultural democracy. Fun Palaces are free events for everyone, encouraging everyone to be a scientist and everyone to be an artist. Working with six other organisations across Bodmin, they created a town-wide Fun Palace for a weekend packed full of action. It was the first time that the museum had got involved with activities that encouraged audiences to travel across the town. The pebble hunt was a real success and many visitors were arriving at the museum and asking for their stamp to show how many Fun Palaces across Bodmin they had visited. The Fun Palaces resulted in the largest number of visitors to the museum in a single day ever.
Audience Initiative Award – Highly Commended (Smaller Organisations)
Fowey Museum: In Search of Tywardreath
Inspired by the memory of a local resident with a passion for heritage, Fowey Museum embarked on locating the site of an ancient Priory, situated somewhere in Tywardreath. What started with tea and chat sessions for older people, recording memories and oral histories, rapidly became more inclusive. A broader range of activities shared learning with the community and involved more people in the discovery of their heritage. Working with the Cornwall Archaeology Unit, the museum organised supervised community digs, test pits in private gardens, family open days with identification of finds, and staged exhibitions in community venues. The project reached over 800 people and provided a reason for many people who would normally be facing issues of rural isolation, to come together and make a meaningful contribution within their community.
Mevagissey Museum: Secondary School Collaboration
When contacted by a local secondary school student asking for support in his community work, Mevagissey Museum jumped at the chance of mentoring the student. The museum attended the school’s careers evening to promote the various roles and volunteering opportunities at the museum. They also showed a film of the Restoration of a Mevagissey Sunday School banner and the Walk With Me app, to highlight the fact that although the artefacts are old, the museum is in the 21st century. The project has helped build a relationship with the local secondary school, with the aim to inspire young people to become interested in heritage.