Guest Blog: Join Us in Year Two of Citizen Curators

Dr Tehmina Goskar is the Director of the Curatorial Research Centre and leads Cornwall Museum’s 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.

We have just completed a successful Year One of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund supported Citizen Curators programme. 29 participants who joined as volunteers at their chosen museum successfully completed the programme and received a certificate for their accomplishment.

If you are interested in taking part in Year Two of Citizen Curators, here are some of your questions answered.

Two of the Citizen Curators examining some of Penlee House Gallery and Museum's collection in the object handling session.

 

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.

 

When and where does it take place?

The Citizen Curators course takes place between October 2019 – April 2020. Seven Cornish museums are taking part in the programme: Cornwall’s Regimental Museum, Bodmin, Wheal Martyn Clay Works, near St Austell, Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, Falmouth Art Gallery, Museum of Cornish Life, Helston, Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance and Telegraph Museum Porthcurno.

 

How many places are there?

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.

 

A Citizen Curator creating music by hitting a silver plate with a spoon during the interpretation session.

 

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.

 

Two Citizen Curators learn how to

 

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:

Cornwall’s Regimental Museum 

Falmouth Art Gallery

Museum of Cornish Life, Helston

Penlee House Gallery and Museum

Royal Cornwall Museum

Telegraph Museum Porthcurno

Wheal Martyn

 

Dr Tehmina Goskar
Director, Curatorial Research Centre

Spotlight on: Citizen Curators at Wheal Martyn

In this blog we catch up with the Citizen Curator team at Wheal Martyn Clay Works about their experiences of the Citizen Curator programme and their new free exhibition ‘Engineering the Earth’.

The exhibition has been put together by Wheal Martyn’s three volunteer Citizen Curators: Carol Weir, Simon Dunham and Imogen Law, who have been mentored by Nikita Brown Wheal Martyn’s Exhibitions and Engagement Officer. Their showcase investigates the role of science and engineering in the china clay industry, particularly looking at the paper-making industry, the use of kaolin (a type of clay found near St. Austell) in cosmetics, and a local engineer – topics which represent the breadth and depth of this vast theme.

The Citizen Curators are encouraging visitors to get involved with the exhibition by guessing the items in the mystery cabinet, sharing knowledge of paper-making industry workers in Cornwall, and checking the ingredients on their cosmetics to see if they contain kaolin, even experts might learn something new!

One of the exhibition cabinets showcasing the paper-making industry.

The Citizen Curator group says, “We hope this exhibition inspires you to also take an interest in museum collections and perhaps volunteer for the next Citizen Curators course.”

Wheal Martyn is one of seven museums across Cornwall participating in the Citizen Curators programme. This programme aims to encourage a more active interest in the collections cared for on behalf of the public and involve people from the local community. The three-year project, led by Dr Tehmina Goskar of the Curatorial Research Centre, is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, administered by the Museums Association, and is part of Wheal Martyn’s Arts Council England supported partnership programme led by Cornwall Museums Partnership.

Tehmina says, “Citizen Curators is all about unearthing the hidden joys of our historical collections so that more people can learn something new from them. That’s exactly what the Wheal Martyn team are doing through their research and this exhibition. We feel very privileged to have supported their journey.”

 

Some of the photographs in the Wheal Martyn collection about the local engineers.

The Citizen Curators say, “We have enjoyed the opportunity Wheal Martyn and the Citizen Curators project have given us, from exploring the other museums and galleries of Cornwall to the discussions and activities we worked on in the classes. Our volunteering has not only given us a glimpse behind the scenes of Wheal Martyn and its dedicated staff but also taught us much about the local area.”

A showcase about the use of kaolin clay (found locally in St. Austell) in the cosmetic industry.

‘Engineering the Earth’ runs from 6th April – 11th October in Wheal Martyn’s Atrium. Find out more about the exhibition and get updates on Wheal Martyn’s social media: Facebook @whealmartyncw, Twitter @WhealMartyn, and Instagram @whealmartyn. If you have any information on the objects in the exhibition you can join in on social media using the hashtags #citizencurators #stawesome #whealmartyn. You can also follow the Curatorial Research Centre on Twitter @CuratorialRC.

Citizen Curators programme launched

Last Thursday at Cornwall Museums Partnership’s annual Share and Learn day in Helston, I launched the Citizen Curators Programme and introduced its prospective pilot at Royal Cornwall Museum.

Citizen Curators is basically museum studies in the workplace and takes the place between attending one-off training and a full-on course at a university such as an MA in Museum Studies.

Citizen Curators is a work-based training programme aimed at skilling up volunteers (and also staff who want to develop new skills) in modern curatorial practice. The idea behind this programme was developed over 18 months ago in response to the increasing lack of opportunities to learn curatorial and modern museum skills while working or volunteering in a sustained manner, and have the opportunity to test and assess competencies and in a peer learning framework.

The rural context of Citizen Curators is important. People of smaller museums in large rural regions lack the most access to training, skills, networking and peer groups.

For me it’s an opportunity to experiment with delivering education to workers while they work, and also led by the needs of their work. Colleagues will know about my growing interest and involvement in museum skills development and I am grateful for this opportunity try out something new.

Apart from access to skills and an opportunity to test them out, the Citizen Curators pilot will also focus on recruiting at least 50% under-25s.

The emphasis will be on the participants’ learning goals, rather than on fancying up a regular volunteer opportunity or disguising a dreaded unpaid internship.

That said, participants will have to demonstrate commitment and a dedication to completing the course and creating an outcome that is meaningful to the museum.

It is thanks to Arts Council England support through Cornwall Museums Partnership received through through the Change Makers leadership programme that I am able to conduct this pilot.

Download the Citizen Curators Pilot summary (PDF)

Download the Citizen Curators Flier (PDF)

 

Dr. Tehmina Goskar, Change Maker (Arts Council England supported),
Cornwall Museums Partnership & The Royal Institution of Cornwall