#VolunteersWeek: Young Curators

Lowewood Youth PanelFrancesca Pellegrino is the Audience Development Officer for
Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museums. In this guest post, she talks about her work with young volunteer

As you may know Epping Forest District Museum is currently closed for a Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment project. Whilst this is underway we are running and launching a number of new initiatives at our sister site Lowewood Museum before adopting the same model in the newly redeveloped museum in Waltham Abbey.

One of these new initiatives is a Youth Panel. After an extremely successful first attempt at Takeover Day in 2014 (part of a pilot project with SHARE Museums East to get more museums involved in this Kids in Museums initiative) we decided to setup a youth panel.

Lowewood Youth Panel Logo

The group designed their own logo

Lowewood Youth Panel 2The youth panel is aimed at ages 14-24 and the group will be given the opportunity to influence the types of events and activities the museum runs for the museum, act as consultants on the museum’s programme and take on projects and events throughout the year. The project is also the chance to learn lots of new skills, build a cv and meet people.

The youth panel meets once a month and has been running for a few months now. Their first project is to curate the final exhibition in the museum’s exhibition programme. They have decided the theme of the exhibition and will be working on all elements including the research, panel and label making, selecting and displaying objects as well as organising the private view and opening of the exhibition. As part of a special SHARE pilot project on the use of digital elements within the museum environment, the youth panel have decided to incorporate digital interactives into their exhibtion.

Here is what two members of the youth panel have to say about the project so far:

The Youth Panel is a group of young people who more or less take over the running of the museum, and we decide in what ways we make the museum more fun for the younger community. So far we have started the process of planning an exhibition that will go ahead later in the year. I feel the use of digital elements would enhance not only our learning but the learning of the members of the public that come in. I have enjoyed having fun and letting our imagination run wild in the planning of the exhibition.

The Youth Panel is an organisation for young people to get together and take over the running of the museum and so far we have been planning for a new exhibition that is opening in October about the history of the schools in the area. I feel this will help bring in more young people into the museum. I have enjoyed the fact that I meet new people and get to know them, which helps me build my confidence up.

School’s Out: celebrating the history and memories of school life in the Borough of Broxbourne opens on Saturday 10 October.

Lowewood Youth Panel Flyer

SHARE Reaching Different Audiences

On Friday 13th March, Francesca Pellegrino from Epping Forest District Museum attended SHARE Museums East’sReaching Different Audiences” training. Here are her thoughts on the day:

“Within my role as Audience Development Officer for Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museums I have had to really think about the audience that the museums currently work with and carefully considering which new audiences we would like to engage. As I am sure many of you are aware we have to be selective in order to put the best efforts into our audience development work and ensure both audience and museum has a quality experience.

With this in mind I was really looking forward to hearing from museums working with different audiences and the best ways to approach this and again SHARE delivered a useful and informative day.

The day took place at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge which was a great location. We started with a fantastic session from Jacqui Strawbridge from the Fitzwilliam learning team and Fran Bailey from Wintercomfort talking about their partnership working to provide sessions in the museum for homeless individuals. The best part about the session was that we visited galleries in the museum and in groups thought about the museum as an environment. For us as museum professionals we are often very comfortable in a museum environment so it was great to get us all thinking about people’s emotions, thoughts and feelings when entering a museum gallery.

We also heard from Kevin Daniells, Senior Social Worker at Norfolk County Council and Ruth Farnan from the Stories of Lynn project about working with looked after children. Both emphasised that everyone has the right to visit museums and that we probably already offer activities and events that would be great for this audience but foster families may not be aware of our work.

Another session focused on autism. Robert Pritchett, Director NAS Autism Accreditation and Ellen Lee an Education Officer, focused on autism and the Autism Access Award. Here we heard about the awards and how museums could self-assess themselves to see how autism friendly they are. Ellen emphasised that museums can’t do anything but little changes can make a big difference.

Finally Steph Parmee, Learning Officer at Gainsborough’s house and Juliet Lockhart, Artistic Director at Art in Mind gave us a chance to get hands on. Gainsborough house has been hosting art sessions inspired by museum objects for people experiencing mental health. Juliet and Steph led activities where we got to try out some of the sessions they used within their staff training.

There were some very clear points that came out of the day which I will summarise below:

  • Partnership working is essential. This ensures skills sharing and that museums are supported by workers who know the individuals and can assist in sessions
  • This encompasses a lot; from training all staff, to having pre visits with workers from partner organisations and having plans a,b and c for possible situations, patience and willingness to understand.
  • As mentioned above as museum professionals we are comfortable in this environment but a lot of these different audiences and the public more generally have never been to a museum before.

The key thing that encompasses all this is that everyone has the right to visit a museum and to enjoy their experience. What we need to provide are fun experiences that are separate from the audience’s day to day life and access to usual services. This may enable them to create new memories away from their past and therefore enrich their futures”.

For information details of future SHARE training events, visit their on-line training calendar.

SHARE Children and Young People’s Conference 2015

On Wednesday 4th February, SHARE Museums East and ROH & NNF Bridges ran their third annual Children & Young People Conference at Coleridge Community College, Cambridge. “Object Lessons 2- Celebrating Creativity and Partnerships in work with Children and Young People” was attended by museum staff, volunteers and freelancers from throughout the region and the full programme can be found here.

Catherine Hammond, Education and Outreach Officer for Epping Forest and Lowewood Museum Services, shares her thoughts and experiences of the day:

“I had really been in two minds about attending the SHARE conference.  As is so often the case, with so much to do and so little time, a day in the office catching up with current projects seemed a good option. But, once again the conference proved a good reminder of the importance of getting out, sharing ideas and experiences, and most of all being inspired by the huge amount of talent and creativity within the sector.
The day got off to a good start with a warm welcome by Bev Jones, head teacher of Coleridge Community College, our base for the day.  Bev’s commitment to developing creativity and a sense of community amongst the students in her school and recognising the role museums can play in this make her a great advocate for our sector.
The keynote speakers all set clear messages for the day – Susan Raikes, from the British Museum gave a timely reminder that ultimately it is the objects in our collections that are at the centre of memorable, inspirational learning experiences.  Paul Collard gave us some fascinating case studies of putting creativity at the heart of learning, what this can look like and what it can achieve for young people.
The breakout session ‘Why should I bother with arts award’ by Ancient House Museum in Thetford, answered the question very well. I was convinced to give it another go in our museum by the demonstration of very simple but highly effective ways of delivering it as part of an existing programme.  There was also a wonderful bonus presentation by a member of the teenage history club at the museum, a wonderful advocate for the benefits such a group could bring both to young people and the museum itself.  I very much hope they get their funding to visit Japan to develop their project on flint – to inspire such ambition and ideas among young people was a testament to how much confidence this group had given them.
After a good lunch, the breakout session on Lifelines, the Start Hospices project by the Fitzwilliam Museum was a very informed presentation about the value of working with families with life limited children and the practicalities of what such work can involve.  It was particularly interesting to hear how much support was available from practitioners within the hospice movement itself, from psychologists who could help with managing the personal and emotional challenges of working with this group to family workers, art and play therapists.
Jo Roberts’ presentation on establishing a framework for professional development was a timely reminder of how important it is to place a value on our skills and experiences to ensure museums do recognise the value of having  experienced practitioners in learning roles at a time when many museums are facing cutbacks.
The final project reports from SHARE’s Takeover Day Cohort members Francesca Pellegrino at Lowewood Museum and Nollie Cacciatore at Much Hadham Forge Museum, showed how flexible this programme is in terms of how you choose to deliver it, but that having Takeover Day as the focus really helps to get young people on board.
Steph Parmee, from Gainsborough House Museum closed the day with an entertaining and reassuring presentation showing how well even smaller specialist museums including Newmarket Horse Racing Museum have adapted to the challenge of the new curriculum and continue to offer creative learning experiences that directly engage learners with their unique collections.”
The film of Lowewood Museum’s Takeover Day project is available here. Jo Roberts was presenting on the Group for Education in Museums (GEM) new foundation course in Museum Learning, more details of which are available here.