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!
The Citizen Curators, past and future, will improve our knowledge of new research and contribute to improved understanding of the significance of Cornish National Minority Status by:
Undertaking new research and sharing an understanding of existing collections that have been under-utilised or forgotten, particularly in relation to poorly-represented people
Identify a starting group of c.70 items from museum collections across Cornwall and by disseminating this knowledge through online platforms
Making recommendations for items which reflect Cornishness(es) that museums should collect today
Supporting dialogue with audiences about the project, so that audiences are encouraged to contribute to debate and content.
Why National Collection?
We are calling this a National Collection to directly reflect National Minority status recognised by the UK Government through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in April 2014. The Framework Convention is also linked to the European Charter of Human Rights and therefore the recognition of those who self-identity as Cornish is a human right. This status and formal UK Government recognition will not be affected by Brexit as the Council of Europe is not part of the EU.
There are different understandings of nationality, nationhood and nation, many of them culturally informed, some of them politically-charged. We need to recognise the existence of all of these in our museums. The Cornish National Collection is intended to celebrate the national without straying into the nationalistic (wisdom spoken by Allison Fox, Curator at Manx National Heritage–the Isle of Man is a modern Celtic nation like Cornwall).
Even though Cornwall is not a nation-state, the corporate of Cornish people inside and outside Cornwall may be thought of as a nation on an equal basis as Scots, Irish, Welsh or Manx. National Minorities like the Cornish can transcend current state boundaries, e.g. the Sami of northern Scandinavia and parts of Russia. Although ethnicity is an important component of Cornish identity to some, National Minority status offers a much broader scope for self-identity that can relate to: birth, ancestry or shared cultural experience.
We are working out how best to represent this idea in Kernewek, the Cornish Language. It might be Argh Kenedhlek Kernow which means Cornwall’s National Ark.
Across the ancient, military, social, natural, industrial, artistic and scientific heritage held in our collections are the hidden (and arguably the most important stories) relating to Cornwall’s cultural heritage, identities and impact upon the world. The Cornish were recognised as a National Minority by the UK Government in 2014 and Cornwall’s museums need to take a leading role in ensuring Cornwall’s cultural heritage is understood and shared in all of its diversity, milestones and controversies.
With unprecedented access to the historical collections of seven museums, the Citizen Curators will explore which objects of local, national and international significance might create a Cornish National Collection that is distributed across the consortia of museums and the communities they serve. They will research, examine and advance ideas around Cornish identity by asking new questions, presenting previously untold or under-examined stories and sharing the collection in new ways in the museum, outside the museum, and across digital channels.
Through their learning and development Citizen Curators will develop an approach to identifying the objects of a Cornish National Collection and explore how they might be interpreted through programming, exhibitions, outreach and online. They will propose areas of need for contemporary collecting, including the collection of digital artefacts. Previous cohorts will be part of this peer-to-peer process with wider staff, volunteers and users.
Cornish identity and distinctiveness is a real and contemporary issue for communities in Cornwall today. Increasingly in Cornwall, discussions about Cornish identity are becoming politicised and extreme; outside Cornwall, Cornishness is usually dismissed as a joke or unheard of.
There is a growing need for a more nuanced, relevant and balanced exploration of multiple Cornish identities. This is a space museums in Cornwall can fill. Our museums are rooted within their communities.
Re-examining the hidden, lost and forgotten objects with new eyes will enable greater recognition of Cornwall’s cultural heritage and its multiple dimensions. The programme will challenge the cohort to use their creativity within curatorial practice to explore new ways to interpret, share and support an inclusive dialogue with audiences in Cornwall about what Cornish minority status means to them.
It’s early days, we are viewing this curating project as more of a campaign than an end product as we do not know to where this will eventually lead.
We are asking Citizen Curators and colleagues to:
Take part in the Cornish National Collection First Survey (August 2019)
Make a list of things you want to know more about in relation to Cornish identities
Identify themes and items from your projects that might be included
Think about under-represented people, ideas and stories that we will curate
Identify types of artefacts outside museums collections that could be included, e.g. intangible heritage.
This September we are excited to be offering a fantastic training opportunity for people who facilitate meetings, events, and workshops based in the South West.
The two-day ‘Facilitator’s Toolkit’ workshop, delivered by the Association of Facilitators, is a short course that will refresh the basics of facilitator style and provide you with new ways and confidence to lead groups and teams with a focus on assertiveness for facilitators. It is designed for those who want to consolidate, broaden and enliven their style of facilitation. You will be provided with facilitation models, tools and tips.
This is an introductory course in facilitation, but it is not basic. If you are looking for a core facilitation model, and are keen to develop your personal style – then this is for you.
The workshop will explore your role as a group facilitator, paying particular attention to skills practice, and awareness building in the live group setting. Participants will have the opportunity to complete the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Inventory, a short questionnaire designed to identify ones preferred approach to conflict and to broaden one’s skill base. We shall apply assertiveness to the role of facilitator and consider Dimensions of Facilitator Style, a practical toolkit designed to equip you with the confidence and skill to effectively handle group processes and group tasks.
You will learn how to direct and guide groups assertively, this includes leading in cooperative and autonomous ways. You will be encouraged to become aware of your own skills, experience, personality and preferences, and use and flex your facilitator style with self-awareness, authority and personal presence. The topic of Group Dynamics is introduced in the context of choosing an appropriate facilitation style and approach.
Practical skills will include:
Developing an assertive style
Managing passive, aggressive, or manipulative behaviours.
Contracting, setting and managing expectations
Being a catalyst for learning and development – moving things forward
Handling emotions, particularly where they hinder group effectiveness
Challenging and confronting limiting behaviours and attitudes
Working with the prevailing group dynamics to create positive outcomes
Planning and structuring a facilitated session
Who is this for?
If you are:
Working as a consultant, change agent, trainer to a client organisation
Working within an organisation as a change agent, group/team leader, manager or project manager
In chairing roles at meetings with a developmental purpose (be that business, charity or education)
Occasionally called upon to facilitate groups, meetings and teams
Embarking upon a career in facilitation.
Cost: £425 including the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Inventory
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.
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.
This week we are looking at the Innovation Award, which highlights projects or initiatives that have made an organisation more resilient.
We would like to thank PH Media for sponsoring this award.
Innovation Award – Winner (Larger Organisation) Wheal Martyn: Clay Stories
Every two months the staff pick at Wheal Martyn pick a theme to be represented across all aspects of the museum. These ‘Clay Stories’ are shared on social media, installations are shown in the atrium, and a range of themed children’s activities are created. A particularly successful theme was ‘The Kettle Kid’ over the summer in 2018. This theme included an interactive trail, children’s workshops, and a special Kettle Kid café menu. The different themes have proved very popular, gaining coverage from ITV News and BBC Radio Cornwall.
Innovation Award – Winner (Smaller Organisation) Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol, Looe: Kids Take Over the Museum
Last year, the Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol in Looe took part in the national Kids in Museums’ Takeover Day. As part of the event, staff from the museum went to Looe Primary Academy to talk to pupils about how the museum is run. After researching their different jobs, the children then took on the roles of stewards, marketing, front of house, artists, managers, education officers, and curators for the day. The event was a big success. The museum volunteers have learned a lot about engaging with different audiences, and many of the children wanted to help at the museum again.
Innovation Award – Highly Commended (Larger Organisations)
Cornwall’s Regimental Museum: Museum Late by the Young Curators
The Young Curators are a group of 16 – 18 year-olds who meet weekly at Cornwall’s Regimental Museum. As part of the Kids in Museums’ Takeover Day, they created, planned and delivered a Museum Late. With the theme ‘India: Empire and Influence’ they explored new ways of talking about the controversial subject of British rule in India. Creating an exhibition of previously unseen photographs from the collection, a series of talks examining the objects, and an escape room experience based on the Viceroy’s office.
Museum of Cornish Life, Helston: Becoming the Museum of Cornish Life
Staff, trustees, and volunteers were all involved in rebranding the museum to better reflect who they are, and what visitors will experience at the museum – a glimpse of social history and industrial life on the Lizard Peninsula. They now have a strong visual identity and a clear brand including a new website, leaflet, signage and a new set of photographic images.
Innovation Award – Highly Commended (Smaller Organisations)
The Castle Heritage Centre, Bude: Temporary Exhibition Space for National Loans
A ‘Ready to Borrow’ grant enabled the Castle Heritage Centre in Bude to renovate an existing gallery to become a new temporary exhibition area. The renovation included new showcases, improved security, and temperature/humidity monitoring. The museum is now able to showcase significant objects from major museums, with the aim of getting some of Bude’s important artefacts back to the town. The new temporary exhibition space has also increased the number of local visitors to the heritage centre.
Perranzabuloe Museum: ‘Memory and Now’ Perranzabuloe Scrapbook Project
Working with local artist Felicity Tattersall, Perranzabuloe Museum has built a new relationship with a local art and wellbeing group. Through workshops, they created artwork to go into a new scrapbook inspired by a historic 19th century scrapbook held in their collection. The scrapbook has opened up a different way of looking at history, focusing on the idea that ‘we are the history’. The scrapbook has some empty pages in the hope of further collaborations with other groups in the future.
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.
This week we are shining a light on a new category for the 2019 awards. The Environmentally Responsible Award highlights projects or initiatives that have made an organization more sustainable or environmentally responsible.
We would like to thank Tevi Cornwall for sponsoring this award.
Environmentally Responsible Award – Winner (Larger Organisation) National Trust Godolphin: Energy reduction at Godolphin Count House
The National Trust facilities team has taken on a series of measures to reduce the energy consumption of Godolphin Count House. The building’s lighting has been switched to LED bulbs and motion sensor light switches installed in the bathrooms. The main achievement in reducing energy consumption was replacing the two oil boilers, which together used over 8000 litres of oil a year, with one biomass pellet boiler, which now supplies hot water and heating to the whole building. This has all contributed to Godolphin House reducing its energy consumption from 54,806 KWh to under 11 KWh per year, saving money and allowing the National Trust to invest more into their conservation work.
Environmentally Responsible Award – Winner (Smaller Organisation) Newquay Heritage Archive and Museum: Plastics in the Ocean
Newquay Heritage Archive and Museum has worked with various local partners to promote greater awareness of plastic waste in the town, and the danger of plastics in the oceans. The museum’s partnership with Fistral Beach Cleaning Group provided material for the mobile Vintage Beach Rubbish display, which portrays the striking messages about the longevity of plastics and other packaging along the beaches. Items shown in the display include crisp packets that are over 30 years old! The displays have reached over 5000 people, encouraging many people to reduce their own plastic consumption.
Environmentally Responsible Award – Highly Commended (Larger Organisations)
Telegraph Museum Porthcurno: Planet PK
The Telegraph Museum Porthcurno is embedding ‘global citizen’ ideals into the core values of the organization. Under the initiative PlanetPK the museum is working on a number of projects with the National Trust and Cornwall New Energy. To show that everyone within the organisation is committed to improving their environmental responsibility, the museum director is training as a Marine Mammal Medic and their gardener Paddy has offered his expertise in installing and managing several bee hives, which staff members have volunteered to maintain.
Museum of Cornish Life, Helston: Evergreen Maintenance
Over the summer months and into winter 2018, two dedicated volunteers from the Museum of Cornish Life, Helston carried out visual inspections of the museum’s 50 plus windows. They found that some of the windows were in a bad state and embarked on repairing, sealing, and painting all the doors and windows at the museum. Their work has extended the life of the windows saving them from landfill, as well as improving the look of the museum building.
Environmentally Responsible Award – Highly Commended (Smaller Organisations)
Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol, Looe
A change in volunteers at the Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol, Looe created the desire for the museum to be more integrated into the Looe community, and take a more environmentally responsible position. The museum decided to write an Environmental Policy to guide their decision making, they have started their long-term commitment by installing LED lighting, increasing recycling, and finding environmentally friendly suppliers. UV film has also been installed in some of the windows reducing the need for heating and allowing some of the older paintings and artefacts to be on show again in the museum.
The Castle Heritage Centre, Bude: Making Café Limelight More Environmentally Sustainable
The Limelight Café at The Castle Heritage Centre has introduced multiple initiatives to support the Greener Bude campaign, to make Bude the greenest town in the UK. The café has eradicated single-use plastics, offers free refills of tap water, a discount if visitors are using their own reusable takeaway cup, and is focusing on finding more local food suppliers to cut down on food miles.