Just a little bit of History repeating

Today’s blog is written by Phoebe Wingate, a trainee on Norfolk Museums Service ‘Teaching Museum‘ scheme. 

My relationship with History as a subject is a rather turbulent story.  At Middle School I had a fantastic teacher by the name of Mr Holzer. His lessons were full of story-telling and as a class we always hoped for a chance to use the giant dressing-up basket in the corner of the room. Continuing this inspirational introduction was a Scottish historian and I, at age 14, imagined he spent his spare time roaming the Highlands, fully kilted and blue of face. These early engaging characters were a tough act to follow though and at High School I feel out of love with the subject; lost in dry facts and dates that refused to be anchored to events.

So how on earth did I find myself, over 20 years later, on a traineeship with Norfolk Museums? Public engagement has always been at the core of my work but it had never occurred to me to work in museums due to my scientific background. Several months ago a number of friends and family pointed out the teaching museum programme and encouraged by their support I applied. Now 4 months into the training, I still feel incredibly lucky. It is hard work and full-on but I get to be involved in amazing projects and gain experience with a fantastic team.

One of our recent training days saw us exploring some of the independent museums in the county: first stop, the Museum of the Broads. Here we met with museum curator, Nicola Hems, who talked about the history of the site, as well as the trials and tribulations of being a small independent museum. As we chatted her volunteers were desperately working on the most prized item in their collection; a Victorian steam boat called ‘Falcon’. The BBC were due the following day to film Timothy West and Prunella Scales aboard as part of the series Great Canal journeys – at the time ‘Falcon’ was producing dubious splutters.

Trainees with MoB curator, Nicola, Regional Museums Development Manager, Jamie Everitt and Teaching Museum Manager, Sarah Gore at the Museum of the Broads.

The collections on display in this picturesque museum tell the story of life on the Broads; including Viking marauders, boat builders and holidaymakers. It houses boats of all sorts, from a strict interpretation such as racing yachts to more nutty waterborne inventions. The museum also boasts an engaging display of boat toilets…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top left; ‘Nutty Slack’, a water bicycle used in recovery of bodies from the river. Top right; Steam boat ‘Falcon’ getting some TLC from the MoB vols. 

As we were leaving to the more encouraging sounds of a putt-putting steam boat, we wove our way Northwest to meet Philip Miles, the manager of Sheringham Museum. The building, found nestled in the cliff face, is home to several lifeboats as well as collections that focus on the local fishing industry and townspeople. The temporary exhibition of Gansey patterns installed throughout the museum adds another dimension and has been well received, pulling in audiences from as far as Japan. As Philip took us through the rollercoaster experience of making this museum a success, we all picked up on his passion and his team’s efforts.

The Dutch Gansey exhibition features over 60 different patterns as well as few of Sheringham’s own.

The final visit on our tour was to Fakenham Gas and Local History Museum where we were greeted by the enigmatic Harry. Solely run by volunteers, the museum is housed in the only complete town gasworks in the country, and is a treasure trove for engineer enthusiasts.

Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local Life

These museums are incredibly different; a relic of the industrial revolution; a reflection on past and present holiday industries; a reveal of the fishing heritage and courageous lifeboat men. But they also share a common ground; they all have a team of dedicated, passionate people (a theme that crops up time and time again). The more I come to learn of museums, the more I am reminded of those characters who engaged me all those years ago.

Remembering Katrina Siliprandi

We bring you today’s blog with a heavy heart. Saddened by the news of the death of  Katrina Siliprandi last week, SHARE’s Kathy Moore, a dear friend of Katrina, writes:  

Many of you will be aware of Katrina’s pioneering work in Museum Learning as Head of Learning at Norfolk Museums Service for many years. She was hugely important for NMS as an organisation but also for many individuals whom she mentored, inspired, and encouraged. She gave me my first job in museums and had been my touchstone ever since.

Katrina and I at a SHARE event

She was passionate about all museums, large and small, about their collections as a foundation for fantastic learning and life-changing experiences. She was dedicated to improving Access and Inclusion in museums and worked regularly with looked after children, young offenders and many other minority groups.

Katrina with Cathy Terry, Senior Curator at Strangers Hall

After her early retirement from NMS on health grounds a few years ago, she recovered enough and was enthusiastic to deliver SHARE training on Reaching Different Audiences, Learning from Objects and Reflective Learning Practice.

Katrina at her leaving do, Norwich Castle

She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just over a year ago and initially thought she had only weeks left to live. As you would expect, if you’d known her well, she fought hard to have as long as possible with her family, including young grandchildren. She always had time for her friends too and many kept in touch and visited her during this last year, keeping her up to date with what was happening in the museum world. She wanted to know all the news from NMS, SHARE, GEM etc.

One of Katrina’s favourite projects saw the production of this short film. Just like Katrina, it highlights the values of thought-provoking and interesting learning alongside barrels of fun!

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SNxvNcyCSo[/youtube]

 

Her early death is a huge loss to her family, friends and the museum profession as a whole.

Katrina in action at the Scott Polar Research Institute

 

Visual Merchandising: A Thank you from Bawdsey

Today’s update is brought to you by Elizabeth Brooking from Bawdsey Radar Museum. Liz is a trustee, shop volunteer and ex-teacher, with no prior retail experience. Liz recently attended one of our Retail Forum events at Chelmsford Museum on visual merchandising.

Both Hilary and I from Bawdsey Radar would like to thank SHARE for the really useful Retail Forum day that we attended. As we are embarking into the unknown it is so helpful to have the advice from your specialists, as well as time to network with others to get their experiences.  Others’ practical advice is very useful.

RAF Bawdsey – the first fully operational radar station in the world

 

We launched our new website – www.bawdseyradar.org.uk  – last weekend, where there is a mention of the new shop.

Bawdsey’s exciting new retail offer. Coming soon…

Staff at Bawdsey will be putting into practice what they have learned through SHARE, and we look forward to seeing their merchandising and retail offer. 

 

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