Hidden Histories: Oral History Interviews

Continuing our series on Hidden Histories in museums, oral history interviews are a great way to fill gaps in your collection and to bring stories to life for audiences, both in your museum and at home.

black smartphone and headphones on a desk

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

As previously discussed, histories of certain groups and communities are often “hidden” because we don’t have the objects in our collection to represent them or because curators lack the specialist knowledge to interpret them.

By conducting interviews with members of these communities, you not only broaden your collection to include new stories and be more representative, you can ask questions which help you to better understand the physical objects already in your collection.

There are lots of ways museums can use oral history recordings. You can include them in exhibitions, either through a fixed unit or a portable player. Essex Record Office’s recent “You Are Hear” project saw special benches being placed around the county played recordings to the people listening to them.

You use clips of recordings on your website. Websites like Soundcloud, you can share clips from your your recordings and embed them into your website or blog, enabling you to share them around the world.

However, it isn’t as simple as simply sitting down with a your interviewee and asking questions. You need to make sure you have their permission to record the interview, to keep it and to share it.  You need to know that the equipment you have is up to the job. You should have a plan about what you want to ask, know how to ask open questions and what to do if the subject becomes upset during the course of the interview.

If you haven’t previously had oral history training, or would like a refresher, I have organised a training day with Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Sound Archivist at Essex Record Office on 27th November. Click here for more information.

Don’t forget that SHARE’s Hidden History grant scheme is now open for applications. The deadline is 28th January, 2019. There is also a Hidden Histories Study Day at the British Museum on 23rd October 2018.

Hidden Histories: We Are Colchester

Today’s blog post continues out theme of Hidden Histories and is written by Ben Paites from Colchester and Ipswich Museums.

We are Colchester 5Colchester Museums have recently been looking to engage with a wider range of audiences through a series of projects held predominantly at Hollytrees Museum. “We Are Colchester”, an exhibition running from July 2018 to January 2019, has been the launchpad for this work.

The concept of the exhibition began in 2017 when it had been suggested that we have an LGBTQ+ exhibition in Hollytrees Museum, as this is an audience that is currently underrepresented within our collections. I held a focus group in April 2017, where I invited representatives from a wide range of organisations to come and give their thoughts on this idea. It was unanimously agreed that an LGBTQ+ exhibition might not be suitable for Colchester, as there would be the potential for alienating the very audience we were trying to attract. The fear of visitors to such an exhibition having to “out” themselves was quite problematic for some attendees. However, the concept of identity more broadly was a much more favourable topic.

“We Are Colchester” therefore looks at an individual’s identity as expressed through a single object. We have items loaned to us by members of the public, as well as objects from the museums’ collections. The exhibition explores a wide range of characteristics, such as gender, race, religion and profession. Encouraging visitors to add their own stories to the exhibition, there is an engagement wall where visitors are able to add a label expressing their own identity.

Following on from this project, we are hoping to turn our attention to the permanent displays in Hollytrees by inviting individuals from various communities within Colchester to explore our galleries and see whether they feel they are reflected in the museum. We will then work with them to see if we are able to reinterpret objects, rewrite labels or even actively collect new items to be part of the museums’ collections.   As it is Black History Month, we are currently recruiting individuals with an interest in Black and African History to get in touch and to be part of this project. We will be doing the same in February 2019 for LGBT history month, with the hope of engaging more audiences in future.

Museums News – 3rd October 2018

Dear All,

There are still spaces on the free “Donation to Disposal” seminar being run by Collections Trust on 12th October at Rayleigh Weir Fire Station. The day will be a thorough look at the new SPECTRUM 5 guidelines and will be really useful to anyone working with collections or responsible for Accreditation. More information is available here.

On 23rd October, I have organised a free “Hidden Histories” study day at the British Museum. The day will include an “Uncomfortable Art Tour” with Alice Proctor, looking at the colonial past of the British Museum’s collections. In the afternoon, we will have free entry to the museum’s “I Object” exhibition, which looks at the history of dissent. For more information, click here.

There is also an oral history training day on 27th November at Essex Record Office in Chelmsford.

To book on any of these, email me at amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk with your museum name and a contact telephone number.

Best wishes,

Amy

What is a “Hidden History”?

person with body painting

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

SHARE Museums East have just launched a new grant scheme to support museums to interpret and share “hidden histories”, but what does it mean and why should you care?

Hidden histories are stories which are typically not told by museums. This could be because past curators haven’t collected relevant objects, or they have but museums lack the knowledge (or interest)to properly interpret them.

Often hidden histories are those belonging to minorities, such as people with disabilities, religious groups and BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities.

As homosexuality was illegal until the 1960s and continued to be deemed socially unacceptable for some time afterwards, LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) stories are often under-represented.

However, “hidden” does not necessarily mean minority. Women are fifty percent of the population, but their stories are often not well recorded or shared. In many museums, women are only represented in the domestic galleries, or in relation to their husbands/fathers/sons. Collections are also often focussed on the wealthy or middle classes. Employers of the working class are well represented but the stories of the individuals are often sketchy or overlooked entirely.

Of course, I speak in generalities and there are many excellent examples of the above in museums but they are the exemption, not the rule.

 

How has this happened and why is this a problem? How would it benefit your museum to do more work highlighting these stories?

Many collections have come together through the work of a few private collectors and/or curators. They therefore reflect their particular interests, prejudices and opportunities. More recently, we have tended to rely on objects being offered to us rather than actively seeking to fill gaps. There is also frequently an awkwardness in tackling experiences outside of our own.

However, the world is changing. People no longer visit museums because it is considered “a good thing to do”. By tackling more diverse stories, museums are relevant to more people. They can increase not only their audiences, but their volunteers, donors and supporters, making them more resilient.

 

This is the first in a series of blogs around hidden histories, but I would like to draw your attention to a study day I have organised at the British Museum on 23rd October. This day will look at two different examples of hidden history interpretation.

Museum News – 18th September 2018

Dear All,

 

I am currently conducting a short survey to help shape the future of the Heritage Education Group (HEG). Please can you spare a few minutes to answer these questions: https://essexmdo.polldaddy.com/s/future-of-heg

 

I’d also like to take a moment to thank everyone who got their Benchmarking return in. I haven’t been given the exact figure yet, but we had around 80% of Accredited/WTA museums respond, which is an Essex record. Hopefully next year we can make it 100%!

 

Upcoming Essex Events

  • Museums Essex – Save the Date

The next Museums Essex meeting will be on Tuesday 4th October at Thurrock Museum. More details will be available soon.

  •  Donation to Disposal: Documentation Procedures and Guidance, Friday 12th October, 10am till 3:30pm, Rayleigh Weir Fire Station, FREE

This session, led by the Collections Trust, will explore the basics of museum documentation, its importance and how it is approached by different organisations.

By the end of the course, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the requirements of the Spectrum Primary Procedures and how they might be applied in different museums
  • Understand what is required by Accreditation
  • Be aware of where to go to for help and advice
  • Feel confident in what they need to do to meet the standard

For more information, and to book, please visit: https://essexmdo.com/events/donationtodisposal/

  • Essex Museums “Hidden Histories Study Day”, 23rd October, British Museum, FREE

“Hidden histories” is a term used to describe stories from the past that are overlooked or not generally known because they apply to a minority or oppressed group, including (but not limited to) LGBT, disability, mental health, BAME and women’s stories. For example, “Snapping the Stiletto” has been uncovering stories of women from the last 100 years that haven’t been researched and shared before.

Early in 2019, SHARE will be offering grants next year to support museums to explore “hidden histories”. In advance of this, I have arranged for a study in London. The agenda is still being finalised but will include an “Uncomfortable Art Tour”, looking at the Imperial past of the collections and how our Colonial past has shaped the collections: https://www.theexhibitionist.org/

I expect places at this event to be popular so I am initially limiting it to two per museum, with priority to Accredited/WTA museums. However, I will keep a waiting list for anyone else who is interested.

  • Heritage Education Group, Tuesday 18th December 2018, 10am for 10:30, Venue TBC, FREE

The Heritage Education Group (HEG) is open to anyone working or volunteering in heritage education in Essex, including museums, heritage centres, parks, libraries, churches etc. It meets quarterly, at different venues around the county. At our September meeting we’ll be looking at Community Co-Production and sharing updates from around the county. For more information, visit: https://essexmdo.com/events/heg/

  • SAVE THE DATE: Essex Police Safer Rural Communities Day, 14th November, Slamseys Farm, Blackley Lane, Great Notley, Braintree, CM77 7QW, 10am until 3pm, FREE

“Visit the many exhibitors showcasing crime prevention products, gain crime prevention advice & information from Essex Police and the exhibitors.

Includes relevant policing departments, partners, farming organisations, security products, CCTV, access control, equine advice, drones and much more!!

FREE ENTRY AND PARKING ON SITE

For further information dial 101 and ask for Essex Police, then ask for Essex Watch Liaison Officer”

  • Upcoming VisitEssex Training

17th October – Customer Care and Selling skills at Cressing Temple 9.15am – 2pm £49pp including lunch (£69pp for non-members)

15th November – Event Management at Wivenhoe House, 9.15 – 2pm £59pp including lunch (£79pp for non-members)

Email Lisa.Bone@essex.gov.uk for more information

 

SHARE Updates

  • SHARE Training Calendar

SHARE recently launched their 2018/19 calendar of training opportunities, which can be viewed here: http://www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk/

 

 

Vacancies

  • Vacancies at Essex Record Office

Customer Service Lead (19485): https://essexcc.taleo.net/careersection/ecc_external/jobdetail.ftl?job=19485&lang=en

Archive and Collections Lead (19486) https://essexcc.taleo.net/careersection/ecc_external/jobdetail.ftl?job=19486&lang=en

 

What the HEG…?

Museum Explorer

I’m not sure when the Heritage Education Group (HEG) first began. I know I first attended, as an Assistant Community Outreach Officer at Colchester and Ipswich Museums, back in 2007.

 

The group and the heritage sector have both changed a lot over the intervening years, and I would love to hear your views on what you value about the group, what you’d like to see more of and, if your museum doesn’t currently attend, what would get you to join.

 

If you aren’t familiar with HEG, it is a group for anyone delivering heritage education or community engagement within Essex, including Southend and Thurrock. While this is largely the staff and volunteers of the counties museums and heritage centres, it also includes parks, libraries, archives, attractions and independent freelancers.

 

We currently meet four times a year, varying our day of the week and location in the county to try and make it as accessible as possible. We regularly have guest speakers or presentations on topics relevant to the group. For example CREST Awards, working with home educators or how to use digital technology in museum learning. There is an opportunity to hear about what work other organisations are doing and to ask for support with any issues your organisation is currently having.

 

The group also feeds into the Museum Development programming locally and regionally through SHARE. For example, conversations at HEG led to the museum education mentoring pilot a couple of years ago and our current “Snapping the Stiletto” women’s history project.

 

If you are not currently on the mailing list (I know a lot of people “fell off” when the new, post-GDPR emails were launched), you can sign up here.

 

Meanwhile, please take a few minutes to complete this survey  and indicate how we can make the group of more use to you going forward.

Museum News – 7th September 2018

Please find below updates from the latest Essex Museum Newsletter. To subscribe and get these updates straight to your inbox, click here.

Braintree Museum

Braintree Museum

Essex News

  • Youth Engagement Project

Pippa and I are looking for museums that would like to be involved in a youth engagement project, linked to Snapping the Stiletto. You do not have to be part of the original project or Accredited.

Pippa is putting together a Young Roots HLF application to work with youth organisations around the county to explore and celebrate Essex women’s stories from the last 100 years.

If you are interested in getting involved or just want to know more, please email Pippa at Pippa.smith@essex.gov.uk

  • Heritage Education Group, Thursday 13th September 2018, 10am for 10:30, Rayleigh Town Museum, FREE

The Heritage Education Group (HEG) is open to anyone working or volunteering in heritage education in Essex, including museums, heritage centres, parks, libraries, churches etc. It meets quarterly, at different venues around the county. At our September meeting we’ll be looking at Community Co-Production and sharing updates from around the county. For more information, visit: https://essexmdo.com/events/heg/

  • Museums Essex – Save the Date

The next Museums Essex meeting will be on Tuesday 4th October at Thurrock Museum. More details will be available soon.

Also, if you have been trying to contact the Chair, Robert Rose, please be aware that his email address has been updated to: robert.rose@bdmt.org.uk

  •  Donation to Disposal: Documentation Procedures and Guidance, Friday 12th October, 10am till 3:30pm, Rayleigh Weir Fire Station, FREE

This session, led by the Collections Trust, will explore the basics of museum documentation, its importance and how it is approached by different organisations.

By the end of the course, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the requirements of the Spectrum Primary Procedures and how they might be applied in different museums
  • Understand what is required by Accreditation
  • Be aware of where to go to for help and advice
  • Feel confident in what they need to do to meet the standard

For more information, and to book, please visit: https://essexmdo.com/events/donationtodisposal/

 

SHARE Updates

  • New Website and Training Calendar

SHARE have revamped their website and launched their new training calendar. Please have a look and see if there is any training that would be useful to your museum: http://www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk/

  • SHARE Advisory Forum

“The SHARE Advisory Forum is a new panel set up to act as a ‘critical friend’, to advise and inform our programmes during 2018-22. We are seeking members to represent different parts of the museums sector in the East of England.

The Forum is composed of 12 nominated and elected members. There are places for six elected members from the following groups of organisations:

  • 1 representative of local authority museums
  • 1 representative of staffed independent museums
  • 1 representative of a fully volunteer-run museum
  • 1 representative of a National museum
  • 2 representatives of different external organisations who are able to bring relevant and suitable skills to the Group, e.g. other regional heritage and arts organisations or tourism bodies.

If you would like to nominate yourself, please email Jamie Everitt, SHARE Regional Museum Development Manager, to arrange an initial discussion.

To find out more about the SHARE Advisory Forum, go to the Funding and Governance page of our website where you can download the Forum’s Terms of Reference”.

 

Funding and Opportunities

  • Free Autism Access Resources

Friday is the deadline for these free resources to make your museum more accessible to people with autism: http://autisminmuseums.com/free-sensory-equipment-from-autism-in-museums/

  • Fundraising Cohort

“Following the success of SHARED Enterprise, I’m delighted to confirm that SHARE will be picking up the baton and offering a new fundraising cohort opportunity for 2018-19.

There will be one cohort, comprising up to 6 museums that are serious about developing their fundraising skills.  Applicants must commit to attending all group workshops and one-to-one sessions.  Ideally, all sessions should be attended by the same two people, as this makes the learning more effective.  Preference will be given to museums which have not had the opportunity to join any of the SHARED Enterprise cohorts, but previous participants are welcome to apply if they can demonstrate the benefit they would receive.

We are in the process of recruiting a consultant to facilitate the cohort.  The training offered will be a blend of workshop sessions and 1-2-1 bespoke support worth approximately £1,600.  We are asking for a contribution towards this cost of £200 per accredited museum or £400 for a non-accredited museum.  This is to ensure commitment to the whole programme”.

For more information, visit: https://essexmdo.com/2018/09/06/share-fundraising-cohort-2018-19/

  • Arts Council England Project Grants

ACE have produced a useful guide to their new grants and who is eligible to apply: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/Information_sheets_Museum_projects_Project_grants_0.pdf

  • Safe and Secure: Facilities Improvements Grants

“SHARE is offering grants to help museums forge stronger links with National museums and other significant lenders to increase loans from these organisations to museums in the region.

Museums can apply for a grant up to £3,000 for a wide range of activities related to loans. Examples of activities for which the grant can be used include:

  • Security improvements including work needed for GIS
  • Environmental improvements including work needed for GIS
  • Conservation and condition report costs for loans
  • Conservation work required as a condition of the loan agreement
  • Transport and packing costs for loans
  • Courier fees or object handling staff time
  • Specialist mounts, frames or display cases

Other activities may be eligible. For more details see the Grants section of our website. The deadline for applications is 5pm Friday 28 September 2018. If you would like to discuss your project, please contact Miranda Ellis, SHARE Project Officer”.

  • Museums Change Lives Awards

“The Museums Association (MA) is calling for nominations for the Museums Change Lives Awards, which will celebrate the achievements of museums and individuals that have made an impact on the lives of their audiences and communities.

The inaugural Museums Change Lives Awards will have three categories for museums: Best Museums Change Lives Project, the Local Hero Award and Best Small Museum Project; and one category for individuals: the Radical Changemaker Award.

The Museums Change Lives award will recognise the best project in the past year that reflects one or more of the themes of the MA’s Museums Change Lives campaign: Promoting Health and Wellbeing; Creating Better Places; and Inspiring Engagement, Reflection and Debate”.

For more information, visit: https://www.museumsassociation.org/news/31082018-enter-your-nominations-for-the-museums-change-lives-awards

  • SEMFed Study Trip Bursary

The South and East Museums Federation is unique among UK Museum Federations in organising an annual study trip that gives members a rare opportunity to visit behind the scenes and meet members of staff from museums across Europe and beyond.

It is a great opportunity to learn from fellow professionals across the world and socialise with fellow SEMFed members over dinner & drinks.

The 2019 SEMFed Study Trip will be to Copenhagen, Denmark on 30th January – 2nd February 2019

Each year, SEMFed offers a travel bursary in honour of Martin Howe, an ex-President of the Federation who was involved in the organisation for many years.

The £200 bursary helps to cover travel and accommodation costs of the study trip and is open to all SEMFed members who have not been on the Study Trip before. This year there are two bursaries available.

  • AIM Hallmarks Awards, Grants Of Up To £12,000

“AIM members in England can now apply for a grant of up to £12,000 through the new AIM Hallmarks Awards. Funded by Arts Council England through AIM’s National Portfolio Organisation funding, the AIM Hallmarks Awards will provide grants totalling around £55,000 each year over the next four years and are available in two strands:

Main grants of £4000 to £12000:  will enable museums to implement the key ideas of the AIM Hallmarks. We will support projects that have an impact on museums’ ways of working, culture, strategy or business model. These will be open to all Accredited AIM member museums in England.

Small grants of £3000 – £6000: will support museums to improve their financial sustainability through either cost saving or income generation. These will only be open to Accredited AIM member museums in England in AIM’s small museum category (that is, museums with up to 20,000 visitors a year).

The closing date for Round One is 20th November. Please click this link to find out more.

  • Call for Papers: Culture Geek London, March 2019

“If you work in or with a cultural organisation and have a digital project that you’d like to share, revolutionary new tech which we all should know about or an idea that could help those working in the sector to navigate the changing digital landscape we want to hear from you”.

For more information, visit: https://london.culturegeek.com/news/speak-culture-geek-2019/

  •  Weston Loan Funding

“The Weston Loan Programme provides funding for regional museums to secure important strategic loans from national collections, maximise loan opportunities in the context of their own collections and communities, and offers opportunities to strengthen the skills of museum professionals working in this area.

We recognise the great value of our national collections being shared more widely across the UK, and hope that museum staff, collections and audiences nationwide will benefit now and in the future.

The second round of applications for funding is now open and the deadline for submissions is 11 September 2018. Please find details of how to apply below, and contact Penny Bull, pbull@artfund.org, 020 7225 4840 for further information about the programme and to discuss a potential application.

We’d also encourage any applicants who are less confident about borrowing from a national museum or gallery to attend one of TEG’s ‘Preparing to Borrow’ workshops, being run across the country from May to July 2018”

For more information, visit: https://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/weston-loan-programme

 

Training and Resources

  • Retail Forum: Inspiring teamwork through Retail, Friday 19th October, Scott Polar Research Institute, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER, 10am – 3.30pm

“A workshop looking at how Retail volunteers are selected, recruited and inducted into the museum team, supporting a one team approach and how the retail team can help increase volunteer satisfaction and visitor engagement throughout the museum. We will be joined for the training sessions by Linda Brandish. Linda is a Volunteering Advisor who has 15 years experience in the sector, and who has previously worked with SHARE on volunteer focussed training opportunities.

There will also be the usual opportunities for networking, group discussion and the Dead Stock Swap Shop – an opportunity to brainstorm how to push sales of dead stock or where to pass it on to!

There is no charge for the event, and lunch and refreshments will be provided.

All welcome! To book your place please follow the link below: http://www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk/events/event/retail-forum-inspiring-teamwork-through-retail/

  • GEM Intermediate Course: Heritage Interpretation 2018, 4th October 2018, 10.00 till 16.30, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Fee: £125 for GEM and AHI members and £160 for non-members

“If you want to develop your understanding and application of interpretive good practice, then this course is for you!

Freeman Tilden, the “father of interpretation” believed that interpretation is an art, but one which can be taught. We will share the skills of this “art” and explore Tilden’s other principles of interpretation through hands-on learning. You will discover the background and context for interpretive theory and be supported to put it into practice in a meaningful way.

This course is aimed at mid-career professionals with responsibility for planning, delivering or managing learning programmes across the heritage sector. It is most suited to those already involved in interpretation in their organisation, especially those looking for ways to improve or build upon their practice.

The course will combine a one-day workshop with personal work and ongoing peer discussion to give you the most beneficial learning experience possible. The one-day workshop will be a mix of discussion and sharing of perspectives/experiences, practical working in pairs and small groups and some presentation of theory by the course director. It will also facilitate the building of a peer group to support you through the follow-up activity.

For more information and to book, please visit the GEM website (https://gem.org.uk/training-and-events/gems-training-programme/intermediate-courses/heritage-interpretation-course/)”.

  • V&A Professional Development Programme

“I’m very pleased to be able to share the new V&A Professional Development Programme with you. We are offering 20 courses between September and January, each led by expert V&A staff members.

I hope in visiting the Professional Development page on our website, you will find courses that speak directly to training needs of your colleagues. It would be greatly appreciated if you could share this page within your professional network. You can also view and download the programme brochure here.”

 

Vacancies

  •  Assistant Curator, Parndon Mill, Harlow

“We are looking to recruit a part time Assistant Curator to join a small team who deliver a variety of contemporary exhibitions.

This position is busy, interesting and fundamental to the smooth workings of Parndon Mill. It will be based at the gallery in an idyllic setting on the River Stort on the Hertfordshire and Essex border. It does require unique delivery of both customer facing and sound administrative skills. It will suit an individual with a keen interest in arts with a driving ambition to be part of the longer-term plan for the furtherance of culture”.

For more information, visit: http://parndonmill.co.uk/contact-us/jobs-and-opportunities

  • Curator (ESCALA and University Art Collections), University of Essex

“This is an exciting opportunity to manage a major art collection and contribute to the development of academic and research support services at the University of Essex. Library Services – in which the post is based – includes three campus libraries, the largest being the iconic Albert Sloman Library at the Colchester campus, with over 1m printed items, extensive special collections and examples of work by leading 20th century artists such as Christopher Wood, Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. In addition to promoting and conserving these artworks, the post holder will be responsible for the management and development of ESCALA, the University’s unique collection of Latin American art, with over 750 works dating largely from the 1960s to the present”.

For more information, visit: https://vacancies.essex.ac.uk/tlive_webrecruitment/wrd/run/ETREC107GF.open?VACANCY_ID=072097HjqK&WVID=9918109NEm&LANG=USA.