Partnership Opportunity – “Stiletto 2”

Rosina Sky edited

Rosina Sky (far right) and Suffragettes in Southend – image courtesy of Peggy Ditton

 

We are into the final 6 months of Snapping the Stiletto. Hopefully, you’ll agree that the project has uncovered some fascinating stories, thanks to the work of the project volunteers, the partner museums and the wonderful Pippa.

 

As you are aware, we were limited by the funding to only looking at existing collections. While this did provide a large quantity of material, there were some noticeable gaps in collections:

 

– museums generally have little material post the 1960s

– working class women

– BAME women

– LGBTQ+ women

 

Given the success of the project in engaging the general public, we are interested in maintaining the momentum and following up with a second project, actively collecting to fill those gaps. 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, so we want to use that as a catalyst to explore equality more generally. We would also want to link in with the Essex 2020 Year of Science and Creativity, particularly through exploring women in engineering.

 

Would your museum be interested in being involved?

 

The proposed project should fit with your local authority’s priorities around learning, communities and wellbeing. It also meets the Arts Council’s “Creative Case for Diversity”, which may be useful to you in future funding applications and to include within your Accreditation return.

 

This second project will run for 18 months from early 2020, with a full-time project manager and part-time learning officer and are looking at an overall budget of about £200 000. This means that although it is a shorter project than the first, there will be much more staff time and resources available. We would be applying the National Lottery Heritage Fund, so the project is open to non-Accredited museums.

 

I know that several of you are already seeking to engage with/collect from BAME and LGBTQ+ communities. This project is an opportunity to increase your capacity and resources to do so. Through the project network and steering group meetings, there will be opportunities to learn from and share practice with colleagues from other museums.

 

Commitment-wise, you would have to agree to:

 

– working with us to actively collect artefacts, ephemera and oral histories and taking them into your collection (this would be based on your collections policy and  organisational capacity)

–  supporting volunteers to research the objects and working with us to make them accessible via a display in your museum and through other mediums. Volunteers can be currently involved with your organisation or project volunteers but each museum will be expected to engage with, and support, volunteers on site

– supporting us to deliver two festivals at the University of Essex (like the one we ran in March) by giving talks and/or having a stall

– co-hosting with us at least one community event over the course of the project

– co-deliver with us projects with at least one school and one youth organisation, including participating in Takeover Day and Teen Twitter Takeover. The budget is still in draft form, but there should be about £4000 available per museum to facilitate this (please note you will be fully supported in doing this by the project team)

– co-deliver with us a targeted community engagement craftivism project, building relationships which will facilitate collecting. As above, the budget is still in draft form, but there should be about £2000 available per museum to facilitate this (and you would be fully supported by the Project Manager)

– attend a minimum of 4 steering group meetings (to be held quarterly, expenses to be reimbursed)

– participate in project evaluation

 

Our expectations of your input will be related to the size and staffing structure of your museum but once signed up you would need to be certain that you can deliver what you have agreed to. We will be building expenses into the project budget.

 

Museums who register interest will be asked to input into a NLHF application and help shape the project outcomes and outputs. Our intention is very much that the benefits will be far greater than the effort we are asking from you.  For example with Snapping the Stiletto, we have managed to engage over 200 volunteers who have delivered what we calculate to be over £28 000 worth of time across the project to date. We would also be able to use it to help you recruit new long term volunteers and even diversify your trustee base (if applicable).

 

We are in the early stages of project development, but aiming to submit our application by 20th August, so things will be moving briskly as we develop the bid.

 

If you do decide that you are interested, please let me know the name/role of the person at your museum who will be leading on this confirm that the senior team/trustees of the museum are, in principle, happy with this (they will need final sign off on the partnership agreement) by 26th July. I am happy to book phone calls during the next couple of weeks if you’d like to talk further before making a bid to take part.

 

We are capping the number of museums at 6 so it may not be possible to include all those interested as we will need to ensure a good geographic mix as well as a range of museums.

 

For more information or to get involved, please get in touch.

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.

Snapping the Stiletto Update

Snapping the Stiletto

Logo designed by Essex artist, Lisa Temple-Cox

Pippa Smith is project manager for “Snapping the Stiletto”, an Essex-wide project looking at how women’s lives have changed since gaining the vote in 1918. 

Snapping the Stiletto is a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections fund which aims to uncover and celebrate stories of strong Essex women over the past 100 years. Working in partnership with 11 museums across (historic) Essex and a range of community groups to steer the project we will be looking for hidden stories of women in museum collections and creating exhibitions and events to share these stories across the county.

CHMPM 536 Pat Foster, 1st female motorcyclist for EP

Pat Foster, first female motorcyclist for Essex Police (copyright Essex Police Museum)

The museums will be recruiting volunteers to help them to research and tell these stories and I’m busy talking to a range of community groups to discover what sort of topics would interest them. So far I’ve had meetings with representatives from the WI and the Shree Ram Mandir  Hindu Cultural and Heritage Centre and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with the Razed Roof Theatre Company in Harlow . I’ve contacted the Guides, sisters from a local mosque and representatives from a wide range of groups representing the diverse communities across Essex.

History students at Essex University studying a ‘Votes for Women’ module  have been looking at the representation of women in museums and public spaces and tackling some interesting questions set by the project which we hope to blog about soon.

So far two main themes are emerging- groups are interested in the history of women at work, in particular in industry and women as campaigners beyond the suffragettes.

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