Early on in the project Pippa and Eleanor Root (who was then the Essex MDO Maternity cover) worked with students from Essex University who were taking a ‘Votes for Women’ module.
To start the session we had asked the students to bring along an object which meant something to them and which they felt told a story about women – this got the students thinking about objects and threw up some fascinating stories including one which told of forced marriage only three generations ago.
Eleanor then explored how museums catalogue items with the groups and we looked together at some classification systems to see where objects associated with women would be found- overwhelmingly we decided that these objects would be classified as ’;domestic’ or possibly be found in the costume section. A search of various museum websites confirmed this.
We then looked at how museums think of their audiences and talked through how many divide their visitors into groups and what this might mean to exhibition and event planners
Pippa then took the students through the various ways museums are managed across the country and we looked at who was represented at a high level in national and regional museums and the make-up of some Boards of Trustees. We did find some senior women which was encouraging but decided that women were generally under-represented at a senior level across the board.
The session introduced one of the key themes of Snapping the Stiletto- that women’s’ history is held in museums but that the way objects have been collected and catalogued over the last 100 years has hidden these stories away. We hope that the project will support museums to uncover these stories and think about future collections
The students were great to work with – we were just a little disappointed that there were no male students as part of the group!