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 – 23rd July 2018

I usually share links on social media so that non-subscribers can view my newsletters but there seems to be a fault with the new platform ECC are using which means the link doesn’t work. Therefore I am sharing the information on my blog.

If, since the GDPR changes, you are no longer receiving my newsletter but want to, or if you are a new subscriber, you can sign up here.

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  • Upcoming Essex Meetings

Collections Trust Event

The Collection Trust will be holding a free training day in Essex on Friday 12th October. We are looking for a venue to host and for everyone’s input on what subjects the training should cover. They are willing to talk about a range of documentation-related subjects including policies and procedures, the new SPECTRUM guidelines, backlogs and collection reviews. To have your say, vote online here

If you are able to offer a venue, please email amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk

 

  • SHARE Updates

Benchmarking – Deadline Friday 31st August 2018.

It’s that time of year again! The annual Benchmarking return collects data from museums around the region regarding visitor figures, income, staff and volunteer numbers etc. This data can be used by museums and SHARE for advocacy, funding applications, planning and all sorts of other things. You can see how your museum compares to others of a similar size or collection, compare data from different years or use it to illustrate the contribution your museum has had to the local economy and community.

The data that you provide should be for the period 1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018. The deadline for completing the survey is Friday 31 August 2018.

For more information about why you should take part in Benchmarking and how to get involved, click here

 

New Creative Communities Network

SHARE is launching a new Creative Communities Network. Building on the work of the previous Co-Production Network, this peer-support group is for any museums looking to engage more closely with their local communities. The first meeting will be this September in Ipswich. For more information, and to give your availability for the first meeting, click here

(Please do email me at amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk with your contact details to go on the mailing list as well as filling in the poll).

 

  • Funding and Opportunities

OFBYFOR ALL

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History is running a fully-funded international museum development pilot called OFBYFOR ALL. The project is based on their phenomenal success in community coproduction, which has seen their annual budget increase from $700 000 in 2011 to $3 000 000 in 2018. It is led by their director Nina Simon, author of “The Participatory Museum”. For more information, click here 

 

Grants Of Up To £90,000 For History Makers In England

“The third and final round of the AIM Biffa Award History Makers Programme is now open for applications from AIM member museums in England. Check your eligibility and find out how to apply here.

Grants of up to £90,000 are available to support museums by creating new exhibitions featuring the lives and achievements of extraordinary, historical figures who have made a significant impact on the industrial, creative industries and arts, scientific, commercial or social history of the UK, helping to shape the world we live in today.

We want the funded exhibitions to be inspiring and exciting – especially for young people – and we are very keen to hear about exhibitions that would feature female history makers, notable people from the 20th century and people that have made a positive impact in the different and diverse communities of England”.

 

“AIM Conservation Grants: Next Round Closes 31st September

Does your museum need financial or practical support for a conservation project? AIM members can now apply for the next round of our conservation grants which close on the 31st September.

The round features three different funding schemes: Remedial Conservation Scheme, Collections Care Scheme and Collections Care Audits. Find out more and how to apply at: AIM Conservation Grants: Next Round Closes 31st September

 

Building Connections Fund

“Following the Prime Minister’s and Minister for Sport and Civil Society’s announcement to unlock £20m funding to tackle loneliness (as a part of Government’s ​wider endorsement of the Jo Cox Commission recommendations​), a new £11.5 million Building Connections Fund has been set up to support projects that are able to prevent or reduce loneliness.

 

The fund is a partnership between Government, Big Lottery Fund and the Co-op Foundation and aims to:

  • increase social connections, helping people form strong and meaningful relationships and creating a sense of community and belonging, and helping people feel more connected
  • support organisations to build on their existing work, eg by reaching more people, or working in a new area or with a different method or group of people
  • encourage organisations to join up with others locally
  • improve the evidence base and use learning to inform longer term policy and funding decisions”

More details, including how to apply, can be found here

 

WH Smith Community Grants

“The WHSmith Trust is now offering grants of up to £500 to voluntary organisations and schools from the proceeds of the compulsory carrier bag levies across the UK. Grants are awarded every six months to charities, schools and community groups of any size, provided they support the community in the UK.” For more information, click here. 

 

Heritage Lottery Fund, 1-on-1 Advice sessions, Wednesday 1th August, 11.00am – 3pm, Hadleigh Old Fire Station, High Street, Hadleigh, SS7 2PA

“Do you want funding? Do you have an idea for a heritage project? Then book a slot with Sally to find out how we can help!

Call Sally Page 07790375405 or email; sally.page@hlf.org.uk to book a 30 minute 1-on-1 slot to talk about your idea and find out more about our funding.”

 

“AIM Members: Sign Up Now To Receive Free Digital Membership Of The Social History Curators Group

Members of AIM can now take advantage of free digital membership of the Social History Curators Group (SHCG). This offer is available until 31st August and the free membership will run until 31st March 2019.

The Social History Curators Group was formed to improve the status and provision of social history in museums and the standards of collections, research, display and interpretation.

The group is a friendly community of history practitioners, people with an interest in social history and those that work directly with social history in museum collections. You don’t have to be a curator or an established professional to join – the group is open to anyone who works with social history.”

 

  • Resources

Heritage Watch

Has your organisation joined Heritage Watch, an Essex Police initiative to battle crime against museums and other heritage sites? Find out more here

 

Freelancers

SHARE has produced two new guides, one for museums wanting to work with freelancers and one for individuals wishing to go freelance. Both are available on the SHARE website

 

East of England Emerging Museum Professionals (EEEMP) Network

There is a new online network for people in the early stages of their museum career, living or working in the East of England. More information is available here

 

  • Vacancies

 Vacancies at Colchester and Ipswich Museums

CIMS are currently recruiting for two posts:

-Assistant Collections and Learning Curator (Natural Sciences), Colchester/Ipswich, £20,043 – 23,574, 37 hours per week, Closing date: Wednesday 1 August, 2018

Senior Collections and Learning Curator, Ipswich, £27,360 – £32,884, 37 hours per week, Closing date: Friday 17 August, 2018

You can find out more information here.

Guest Blog: My First Time At the MA Conference

Today’s post is written by Iona Farrell, Volunteer at Beecroft Art Gallery and Museum in Southend.

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My First Time Delegate Badge

I have volunteered for Southend Museums and in particular Beecroft Art Gallery as an Exhibitions and Archive Assistant for a number of years. Volunteering has fuelled a desire to gain full-time employment in the sector and I therefore jumped at the chance to attend the Museums Association Conference. I knew I would gain fantastic insights into the museum world and learn new skills to put back into my volunteering and my future career.

Essex Museum Development provided me with a bursary to attend the whole three days of the conference and I could never have imagined how jam-packed the conference would be!  It was an inspiring mix of interactive sessions, workshops and fantastic keynote speeches rounded off by visits to cutting-edge museums within a beautiful city.

As a first time delegate (I even have a badge to prove it!) what most struck me was how welcoming everyone was. The first time delegates breakfast on Thursday morning provided an opportunity to mingle with fellow first timers (helped along by delicious bacon butties) and throughout the whole three days whoever I spoke to was always so encouraging in giving me advice.

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The auditorium within the Conference Arena

I had to deliberate long and hard over my conference booklet to decide how I could attend as many sessions as possible ! There was a real mix of content from workshops on how to write CVs and crack into the industry to practical guidance in staging accessible exhibitions and writing interpretative text.

What really surprised me was the variety of speakers. The hilarious Poet and Playwright Lehm Sissay and the equally side-splitting comedian Francesca Martinez opened and closed the first day of the conference with messages of empowerment and acceptance. Whilst Alejandra Naftal, director of ESMA museum, a former detention and torture centre in Buenos Aires opened Fridays proceedings with a hard hitting talk. Equally engaging were the broadcasters Lucy Worsley (who I must admit I was slightly starstuck at!) as well as presenter and historian David Olusoga who spoke about the potential for museums and television to collaborate. Something I am really excited about is the BBC Civilisations series airing in 2018. The BBC wishes museums to stage a series of events that co-ordinate with the programme and are providing free access to BBC archives for museums to tap into. This is something I think would be brilliant across Essex Museums!

Museums change Lives

The resounding message I took from the conference was the potential that museums have to truly change lives, one of the Museum Associations own manifestos. 2017 has been a turbulent year, with Brexit, increasing social isolation as well as the alarming rise of world leaders such as Trump. In her opening speech, Sharon Heal the director of the Museum Association Heal stated museums can respond to this by allowing people to explore their own histories and shape their futures for the better.  It is about being inclusive and reaching out to those who are on the margins.

History of Place- Reanimating Collections of Disability History

Linked to this idea was a session I attended run by the History of Place, a programme that uncovers the lives of the disabled and deaf within heritage sites. It was really useful in showing how museums can create accessible exhibitions, open to those who may not be reflected within traditional museum collections. Creative approaches such as replacing object focussed displays with multi-sensory exhibits using touch, taste and even smell to communicate to visitors really stuck with me. I am excited at how these exhibitions seem to be gaining momentum and look forward hopefully to seeing more examples of this within Essex.

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Museum Detox’s Pop-Up Stand

Museum Detox

Of course inclusivity is not just about expanding audiences but about workforces, one of the main themes of the conference. Museum Detox a collective of BAME museum workers (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups) had a pop up stand where ‘patients’ could take a White Privilege test, and were administered pills (Tic Tacs I might add!) and a prescription to challenge societal injustices within museums. Having studied the idea of the inclusive museum on my Masters course it was great to see these ideas put into practice and discussed so passionately.

It was fantastic to see how museums can tackle these issues creatively and I think that becoming more inclusive is so important within museums but it has to have real meaning and not just be a tokenistic activity.

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Samira Ahmed, Matthew d’Ancora and Ian Blatchford debate on the fake news phenomenon

Fake News and Museums

Another stand out for me was ‘Beliefs Trump Facts’ a debate that looked at how museums can respond to the disturbing trend of ‘fake news.’

Science Museum director Ian Blatchford and Matthew d’Ancora, a Guardian journalist argued it was about striking the balance between rational facts and personal stories. I will definitely take this aspect away, that with great storytelling you can connect with visitors and with this you have the potential to communicate important messages that can lead to a real positive impact in the wider community.

Yet journalist Samira Ahmed astutely countered their stance when she asked what are the parameters of free speech in museums, where should the boundaries be placed, should we state all the facts and reflect every viewpoint however controversial they may be? It seems there is no easy answer but museum workers should use their support networks, such as the Museums Association or within Essex Museums and seek advice from within the wider museum world.

Exploring Manchester Museums

After such an intense but rewarding few days on Saturday I journeyed to The Whitworth, as museums across Manchester opened their doors to delegates. Uthra Rajgopal, Assistant Curator of Textiles and Wallpaper showed us the exhibitions that are being staged as part of the #NewNorthSouth programme across the North of England that is supporting the work of South Asian artists.

In the afternoon I explored Manchester Art Gallery and was particularly moved by the video installations of artist Hetain Patel, whose work brings marginalised subjects into the mainstream. One piece (Don’t look at the Finger) was a mesmerising mix of sign language and kung-fu (yes really!) and I took away how powerful multi-media installations are within a museum setting. This work was also part of the #NewNorthSouth programme. I thought this was a brilliant idea in connecting venues together with a shared message. Southend Museums have a number of venues across the borough and it would be amazing if future programming could bring together all these sites with a shared theme.

Time to go home

I had such a fantastic few days in Manchester and left filled with ideas I can’t wait to put into practice. The conference has shown me what modern museums can achieve in an era of change and uncertainty. Through the support Essex Museums have given me by funding my conference, as well as speaking to delegates I came away knowing Museums are supportive places that truly have the potential to make a worthy impact on peoples’ lives. I want to thank Essex Museums Development for giving me the opportunity to attend.

Learning & Engagement Grants For Essex Museums

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Essex Museum Development is offering grants of up to £500 to support the delivery of learning and community engagement using collections.

The grants aim to support local museums to:

  1. Develop relationships with local education providers including schools, colleges and home education groups
  2. Develop new learning and engagement resources
  3. Develop an adult learning offer
  4. Deliver activities which will reach new audiences
  5. Make their venue more accessible for disabled audiences

The funding scheme is open to any Accredited museum (or museum registered as Working Towards Accreditation) within the Essex or Southend-on-Sea local authority boundaries. Please note that to apply you must have attended at least two of the following training days:

It is important to read the guidance document before applying. It contains some suggestions as to what the grant can be used for, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please do get in contact if you wish to discuss your ideas.

To apply, complete this application form and return it to amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk by 5pm on Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Learning and Engagement application guidance 2018

Click here to download the application form

 

Museums Association Conference: Bursaries for First-Time Attendees

Debating modern ethics

Debating modern ethics at the Museums Association Conference, 2014

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**STOP PRESS** – DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MIDNIGHT, FRIDAY 7TH JULY

 

I am able to offer two bursaries for first-time attendees to this November’s Museums Association Conference. The three-day annual MA Conference is the biggest gathering of museum staff and volunteers in the country and is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the work other organisations are doing, discuss issues affecting the sector and meet colleagues from around the country (and the world!).

Alongside the Conference is a “Marketplace” where you can meet suppliers of museum services and equipment. There are also usually fringe events such as tweet-ups, networking dinners and “unconference” break-out sessions.

Each bursary is targeted at a different area of the workforce:

  • Established professional

Those who have been in paid employment in the sector for more than 7 years (i.e. who began work before November 2010). This could be full-time or part-time paid work and doesn’t include paid traineeships. They should have been working at their current museum for at least six months by the date of their application.

  • Museum volunteer

Those who have regularly volunteered at an Essex museum for at least six months by the date of their application. This can be within any role in the museum.

The full eligibility details are outlined within the guidance document, but you do have to work or volunteer at an Accredited (or Working Towards Accreditation) Essex Museum.

You may find it useful to read the Top 10 Tips for Attendees and a summary of the 2015 Conference.

Please read the guidance notes before applying. The deadline for applications is midnight on Friday 7th July. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Click to download the application guidance

Click to download the application form

Learning & Engagement Grants For Essex Museums

colchester-alison-stockmarr

Essex Museum Development is offering grants of up to £500 to support the delivery of learning and community engagement using collections.

 

The grants aim to support local museums to:

  1. Develop relationships with local education providers including schools, colleges and home education groups
  2. Develop new learning and engagement resources
  3. Develop an adult learning offer
  4. Deliver activities which will reach new audiences
  5. Make their venue more accessible for disabled audiences

 

The funding scheme is open to any Accredited museum (or museum registered as Working Towards Accreditation) within the Essex or Southend-on-Sea local authority boundaries.

 

It is important to read the guidance document before applying. It contains some suggestions as to what the grant can be used for, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please do get in contact if you wish to discuss your ideas.

 

To apply, complete this application form and return it to amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk by 5pm on Tuesday 28th February 2017

Guidance Document: learning-and-engagement-application-guidance-2017

Application Form: learning-and-engagement-application-form-2017

 

Snapping The Stiletto: Re-Examining Essex Collections

 

Image courtesy of Essex Police Museum

Image courtesy of Essex Police Museum

The Essex County Council Museum Development has secured a grant of £95, 445 from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund for a two year project working with museums across the county.

 

2018 is the Centenary of the of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave the first British women the vote, the 90th anniversary of the Equal Franchise Act 1928 which gave all women the vote and the 50th anniversary of the Dagenham Ford Worker’s Strike. These important national and local anniversaries are serving as a catalyst to explore, record and celebrate the diverse and inspirational stories of Essex women.

For the purposes of this project, we are working with partners from across “historic Essex” including those areas which are now unitary authorities or part of London, thus enabling us to tell interpret both existing collections and the stories discovered through our research as part of the wider story.

We will research and record how Essex women’s lives have changed during the last century and celebrate the stories of individual and groups of women in the county, for example Suffrage campaigners and Dagenham strikers but also women whose stories aren’t yet well known. This may include but not be limited to women who were involved in World War II, gained qualifications at a time when most women were unable to access further education, who entered male dominated professions including the services, those who moved to Essex from around the world and made a home for themselves by overcoming language and cultural differences and those who have raised families during a time of changing expectations for their gender. By highlighting women’s contributions, we will add another layer of understanding to elements of history that the public are possibly more familiar with, for example WWII, and change their perceptions of what took place. Also, through telling the stories of inspiring Essex women, we hope to weaken the negative “Essex Girl” stereotype.

 

Image courtesy of Southend Museums

Image courtesy of Southend Museums

 

 

The project is part of an overarching strand of work called “Snapping the Stiletto: 100 Years of Change”. We will be shortly be submitting further funding applications for oral history and other work, so there are still plenty of opportunities for heritage organisations and other groups to get involved. We will also be recruiting a large number of volunteers during 2017.

 

For more information, to sign up for project updates or to learn how you can get involved in the project, email amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk

 

 

 

Our museum partners for “Revisiting Essex Collections” are:

  • Braintree Museums
  • Brightlingsea Museum
  • Chelmsford Museum
  • Colchester and Ipswich Museums
  • The Combined Military Services Museum
  • Epping Forest District Museum
  • Essex Fire Museum
  • Essex Police Museum
  • The Museum of Power
  • Redbridge Museum, Ilford
  • Southend Museums Service