Meeting the Exhibition Team

Today’s blog is written by Jo Gillam, one of the volunteers who has joined the project to help us create an exhibition. Jo advises museums on learning and access and she has her own blog – but today she is acting as guest blogger for Snapping the Stiletto.

 

On 13th July, one half of the exhibitions team for Snapping the Stiletto met for the first time in beautiful former Georgian mansion, Hollytrees Museum in Colchester. Seven volunteers from across Essex gathered with Project Manager, Pippa Smith and Interpretation Trainer, Stewart Alexander (@storylinestew). We were there to learn and discuss how to turn new research on local women who were active outside the home over the last century, into a meaningful, influential, accessible exhibition.

Hollytrees Museum Colchester

Pippa was a welcoming presence throughout the day. She was on hand to answer questions about the project such as timeframes and the different ways team members would be involved. Pippa stressed that it was the team’s exhibition with her role being to co-ordinate, organise, and “to act as a filter”.

Stewart guided us through good practice when writing interpretive text, giving us exercises involving the personal objects we’d all been asked to bring. I studied heritage interpretation post-degree and have a little experience of producing displays, so it was good to re-visit the theories of practitioners like Tilden. The group considered the use of intangibles and universal concepts, that people remember stories not facts, ways in which we might decide which stories or parts of them to tell, and how to get to the nub of a message. It was agreed that we should try to create pictures in the minds of readers, rather than simply writing summaries of facts, and to try to make emotional connections. Everyone was given practical writing guidelines which covered details such as word counts and sentence length. Towards the end of the day, we practised some of our learning using information on Southend worthy, Adelaide Hawken.

The third, important element of the day was the chance to get to know fellow volunteers. Apart from all being female, we were a varied group whose diverse ages, backgrounds, knowledge, skills and experiences should result in a team of many strengths. I’m certainly looking forward to working with such interesting women and building relationships with the remaining team members who will be getting together on 4th August.

Apart from meeting new people and finding out more about the structure of the exhibition project, what key point did I take away from the day? For me, it was that the messages we choose should meaningfully express the essence of what we wish to say and when combined should make complete stories. If the team can come up with clear messages of this nature, we’ll have a good basis for an excellent exhibition of stories audiences will leave caring about.

Jo Gillam @1accessforall

(Thanks to Hannah Salisbury for the photographs)

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Focus on… Southend Museums

Votes for WomenSouthend Museums consists of four unique venues spread across the town:

  • Southend Central Museum and Planetarium
  • Beecroft Art Gallery
  • Southchurch Hall
  • Prittlewell Priory

 

The museum has been working very closely with Snapping the Stiletto volunteers to research women at the start of our hundred year period. In addition to trying to discover the identity of this mystery suffragette, stories being researched include that of Adelaide Hawken, who set up Southend’s first mother and baby clinic and Rosina Sky, a suffrage leader who ran a tobacconist shop in the town who refused to pay her business rates as she couldn’t vote on how they were spent.

 

Click here to find out how to get involved in this and other opportunities across the county.

 

We are particularly keen to highlight our events team, who will be helping to share stories like these at a range of displays and celebratory events over the coming year and a half. Monday 4th June is our first training day for events volunteers, although others will be scheduled soon if you can’t make it (including at least one on a weekend). For more information, click here.

 

Join a team

For the project we have been thinking about volunteering a little differently and have created challenges that you can do from home in a few minutes, challenges that we can send to you to do in your own time at home, challenges that ask you to visit a library or record office to do some research for us an challenges that get you into a museum to investigate their collections.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We are now asking for people to sign up for spaces for some longer term team challenges to help the project communicate the results of all of this research and investigation which is being carried out by over 100 volunteers.

As part of the project we will be designing a travelling exhibition which will go to at least six museums and libraries later this year and next. We don’t want this to be just us deciding what stories we tell, what pictures we use and what the end result looks like- as so many people across Essex are working with us as volunteers to uncover stories of strong Essex women we want a team from across Essex to work with us to tell these stories.

http://snappingthestiletto.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/regular-help/help-us-design-an-exhibition/37/

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We are also being asked to go along to community events and talk to people about what we are uncovering so we’d like a group of people to help with this (our Events Team).

http://snappingthestiletto.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/work-as-a-team/become-part-of-snapping-the-stiletto-events-team/36/

Lastly as well as being invited to existing events we want to think hard about telling these stories outside of museums and libraries and are recruiting an ’Engagement Team’ to help us think about different places to go and different ways to celebrate the strong Essex women of the last 100 years.

http://snappingthestiletto.volunteermakers.org/get-involved/work-as-a-team/join-the-engagement-team/40/

All of these challenges will need a time commitment and this will include some training devised by the Snapping the Stiletto team along with different experts. The training won’t be sitting in a room listening to someone but will be hands-on, interactive and (we hope) fun! You may end up telling stories, improvising jokes, even singing songs or devising dance moves as well as learning about how people working in museums think about and plan for exhibitions and events.

There are limited spaces for these challenge and we probably won’t be able to fit in everyone who is keen so we’ll be doing our best to make sure that all of Essex is represented with a whole mix of people from across the county.

Focus On… Redbridge Museum

 

Red Mus - entrance1

Redbridge Museum is within the Central Library in Ilford. While Redbridge is now a London Borough, it was part of Essex until 1965 which is why the museum is taking part in our project.

 

The museum hosts a range of permanent displays and temporary exhibitions, runs an active schools programme and is open Tuesday to Saturday.

Red Mus EdwardianRm low res

There is a varied range of volunteering opportunities available with Redbridge Museum through Snapping the Stiletto. You could research local suffrage campaigners and the museum is offering training in the use of microfiche readers to find these stories hidden in old newspapers.

The museum is also helping Woodford County High School celebrate its centenary in 2019. They want to know what happened to the school’s first female graduates who went on to attended university in the 1920s.

They have several hours of oral history recordings which reveal local women’s stories in their own words that need to be transcribed. This can be done in your own home as the museum will send you a copy of the recording. Topics include moving from the Caribbean, nursing, the NHS, dating, sexism, racism and living in Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford.

Finally, there is also an opportunity to go behind the scenes at the museum and search their archive for information about local women’s groups and societies.

 

All of these and other volunteering opportunities can be found here.

Have Your Say: Training and Events

chappelow4-e1524227097785.jpgWe are planning to run more training sessions and events for project volunteers, covering a range of subjects such as research skills, handling museum objects, writing museum text and conducting oral history interviews. The sessions will take place at venues across Essex.

We want this training to be as accessible as possible, so want your views on when the best time is to run it. Please can you vote on the poll below, to let us know when you’d be available? You can choose as many options as you want.

Unfortunately, we will be dependant on when trainers and venues are available so we can’t guarantee that everything will be split exactly as indicated by the poll, but we will try our best!

 

 

 

 

The poll closes at midday on 8th May.

 

Focus on… Chelmsford Museum

chelmsford

Chelmsford Museum, Oarklands Park

Our first “Museum of the Week” is Chelmsford Museum.

Set in the beautiful Oaklands Park, just outside of the city centre, Chelmsford Museum is currently undergoing big changes!

The modern extension on the building is still open for visitors, but the original Victorian house is closed while the team work hard to update the displays to include different objects and stories as well as adding in a much-needed café.

You can read more about their plans for the future here and there is currently a display about what’s happening in the Meadows Shopping Centre in Chelmsford City Centre.

As part of Snapping the Stiletto, Chelmsford Museum is looking for volunteers to research lives of women working at the Marconi factory. Built in 1912, it was the first purpose-built radio factory in the world. They are looking for people to give a couple of hours to research online or, if you have more time to spare, to go into Essex Record Office and do research there. For more information about these, and other opportunities, have a look at our volunteering pages.​ 

If you are interested in doing research at Essex Record Office but are not sure how to go about it, we do have a few spaces left on out training session on Wednesday 25th April.