The Teaching Museum

Norfolk Museums Service Traineeship


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Moving on

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Joe,  trainee at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. 

There are mixed emotions as I write what will be my final post on my last day as a trainee at the Regimental Museum. After working with Kate and the brilliant volunteers (Ray, Dolly, Elesha, Dickie, Patricia, Alison, Beryl, Dick, Sheila, Margaret and Glenis) for 11 months, I will be starting my new post in Museum Development tomorrow.

On the one hand, I will miss Kate and all of the volunteers here. I will miss the fantastic projects, exhibitions and the wonderful collection. It has been a privilege to work in this office, and it is what I have wanted to do for many years. Military History will remain my real passion, and it is with a heavy heart that I leave it all behind. On the other hand, I count myself as extremely lucky to have secured a post for the future, working with SHARE Museums East with a great bunch of people (and just down the corridor from the Regimental Office!) I am now faced with exciting new opportunities and challenges.

Military History has always been my passion, and I will be sad to leave it behind

Military History has always been my passion, and I will be sad to leave it behind

In my final few months I have helped to complete a full term-list for our Casualty Book project. The book lists 15,000 Norfolk soldiers who were wounded during the First World War.  Our long-term project has been to codify these entries, researching correct names for wounds, hospitals and camps, and working out acronyms, before launching an online crowd-sourcing platform. I am happy to say that, as I write this, the next phase of the project is in motion. This work, which has been difficult at times, will hopefully enlighten thousands of people across the world, and become a unique source of research for First World War hospitals and wounds. Personally, if we can help even one researcher find out more about a relative, I’d say it has been worth it.

Just 1 of 400 pages of our Regimental 'Casualty Book'

Just 1 of 400 pages of our Regimental ‘Casualty Book’

In early March I also helped to take down the Memorial Cottages exhibition at the Museum of Norwich: https://nmsteachingmuseum.wordpress.com/category/joe/. This was another emotional moment. Seeing the complete cycle of a temporary exhibition – from research to launch to take-down has been a fantastic experience (and a great learning curve). I will never forget the exhibition and its impact on those involved.

Exhibition space - before

Exhibition space - after

Memorial Cottages exhibition space – before and after

The First World War Blog is also up to date. Writing it has been a brilliant way to learn more about the Regiment and our collection. I have learned a great deal, and hope that they provide an interesting read; http://norfolkinworldwar1.org/tag/the-royal-norfolk-regimental-museum/. Working alongside other enthusiasts, and sharing what we have has been a real highlight of the year.

For me, the defining memory of the past 11 months at the Regimental Museum has been ‘the people’. This of course includes staff and volunteers, but also those that are no longer with us; the Norfolk man who kept a diary, the young Officer who wrote letters home, the disabled men who lived in a memorial cottage. Indeed, working with this unique collection has taught me a great deal about human spirit, and in-turn, myself and others. I am keen that the true stories of the First World War – not just those that are easy or simple to tell – should be the legacy of the centenary. To be a part of this, however small, has been an absolute privilege, and I will be truly sad to go…

And it's goodbye from me

Cleaning my desk is just different gravy…

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Reminiscing on a job well done.

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Joe,  trainee at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum   https://nmsteachingmuseum.wordpress.com/

Returning to work after the Christmas break felt odd. Something wasn’t quite right. It was the first time in three months that I wasn’t wholly consumed by the newly-launched Norfolk Regiment memorial cottages exhibition. I was no longer working to a strict deadline or dashing between the Museum of Norwich and the Regimental Museum. I could, for the first time in three months, choose what I wanted to work on for the day. Of course there is still a great deal to do before the display comes down in March, but I can now slowly begin to appreciate my first exhibition.

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Images from the display including my personal favourite; a merge of two photographs taken at the same place (a 1928 snap by a Press photographer and a 2015 mobile phone image by myself).

For me, it was a completely immersive experience which tested a number of skills. Organising text, images and captions was a particular strong point, as was communicating with designers. I enjoyed our relationship throughout and believe we worked well. Refining large chunks of research was much harder, and cutting out text was extremely frustrating at times. Working with people across the service was exciting, and seeing my vision slowly develop was a highlight of the project.

Speaking with cottage residents past and present at our exhibition launch in November

Speaking with cottage residents past and present at our exhibition launch in November.

On November 30th we held a launch event. Past and present cottage residents attended alongside local dignitaries. It was a privilege to see so many people sharing memories and ideas without prompt or introduction, many of whom had helped with my research. The definite highlight was reuniting two old friends, Doreen Lemmon and Mabel Hewitt, who had not seen one another for over 60 years. Both had lived at the memorial cottages as children. That moment will live long in the memory and emphasised the real power of museums in the community.

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Mabel and Doreen, reunited after over 60 years. Doreen’s childhood memories are also recorded as part of the display.

Borrowing the work of artist Paddy Hartley for the exhibition was another success. Hartley’s mannequins, made from First World War uniform and manipulated to signify operations such as skin grafting, are extremely powerful and emotive pieces. His art has been influenced by the work of Dr Harrold Gillies, a facial reconstructive surgeon who treated thousands of Great War soldiers including Robert Liddle, who later lived at the Norwich cottages. They have real resonance with the display and compliment the subject matter very well.

Norman Eric Wallace II by Paddy Hartley. At the Museum of Norwich as part of the temporary exhibition

Norman Eric Wallace II by Paddy Hartley. At the Museum of Norwich as part of the temporary exhibition

We were also privileged to invite Hartley for a guest lecture. He delivered a fascinating talk at the Norwich University of the Arts theatre, and was knowledgeable, interesting and passionate.

Although January now marks a quieter period for me, I know I will miss the buzz of an exhibition. I will miss working with staff at the Museum of Norwich, the service-wide design team, artists like Paddy Hartley, the National Army Museum (where Hartley’s works are kept), Norwich University of the Arts, journalists from the EDP and reporters from Mustard TV,  as well as everybody who assisted the research with memories and photographs. In truth, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

 

Me 7

Happy and tired after months of work. I would not have changed any of it for the world.


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Six Months at the Regimental Museum

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Joe, trainee at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum   https://nmsteachingmuseum.wordpress.com

The end of September marks the half-way point of my traineeship with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum and I still can’t quite believe I’m here. It is still an absolute pleasure and privilege to work with everybody at the Regimental Museum and the time has flown by.

Running Steve Miller's ice-breaker session at the Nofolk Chamber of Commerce "Business Breakfast" in July

Running Steve Miller’s ice-breaker session at the Nofolk Chamber of Commerce “Business Breakfast” in July. One of many smaller events through the summer.

With the successful Edith Cavell exhibition, the 2015 Summer School and a number of smaller events firmly behind me, my main focus since August has been the upcoming First World War Memorial Cottages Exhibition.

Helping with the deep clean at Gressenhall with Morgan.

Helping with the deep clean at Gressenhall alongside Morgan. Another small Summer event.

The exhibition (focusing on the cottages design, the disabled ex servicemen who lived there, their daily life and the advance in disability-housing) will run alongside a number of other interconnecting First World War projects. These are;

  • A new permanent display in the Regimental Museum based on the dugout sketches of Norfolk soldier (and later Memorial Cottage architect) Cecil Upcher. Upcher played a huge role in the evolution of disability housing in Norwich. .
  • A talk at Norwich University of the Arts by Paddy Hartley, creator of a remarkable mannequin we are borrowing for the Cottages exhibition. Hartley will highlight his artwork, Fist World War wounds, surgery and medical innovation.
  • A small touring exhibition by HEART on Colman’s workers and families during the First World War. This will be at the Museum of Norwich alongside the Cottages display.
A piece written by Derek James in the Norwich Evening News. He has helped massively in my plea for information

A piece written by Derek James in the Norwich Evening News and Eastern Daily Press. He has helped massively in my plea for information.

For me,  the most challenging thing has been pulling together all this information and formatting into a worthwhile exhibition. Working with the Museum of Norwich, the artist, cottage residents, the Press, our Design team and HEART has been challenging (and often confusing) but I am positive it will be an enlightening, informative and emotional exhibition. Here’s to the next six months!

Perhaps my favourite image of the Memorial Cottages site.

One of my favourite images of the Memorial Cottages site.


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Hitting the ground running!

Each week we take a look at what’s been going on with Norfolk’s Teaching Museum Trainees.  Today we see Joe, trainee at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum https://nmsteachingmuseum.wordpress.com

I believe I speak for all the trainees when I say our first two months here have been fantastic, and I am certain that the next ten will prove even better. First, a little more of what I have been up to…

My first week!

My first week!

My role here has seen me develop a range of skills and uncover more of the facets involved in curating a military museum. My boss Kate and all the volunteers have welcomed me with open arms, as has everybody across the service. I must also thank Rachel, last years trainee in this post, for her organised notes of which I cannot compete with.

I have already sunk my teeth into a number of projects including meeting local history groups, trips to the record office, watching Anglia TV filming and the Dying Matters event at The Forum. The latter was particularly exciting. I and three other trainees represented the Museum Service at a stall and spoke to hundreds of people. It was a real eye-opener discussing the subject through museum objects with a range of audiences, and one which proved a valuable experience.

Speaking with school children at the Dying Matters Event in May.

Speaking with school children at the Dying Matters Event in May.

I have also been getting to grips with my main project; an exhibition to be hosted by The Museum of Norwich in November. This will be about Norwich’s War Memorial Cottages on Mousehold, built for wounded veterans of the First World War and their families. My initial steps into researching this have uncovered a wealth of information which is both an exciting and humbling experience.

Norwich War Memorial Cottage, built in 1921.

Norwich War Memorial Cottage, built in 1921.

I knew from my first day at Norfolk Museum Service that this job would be a fantastic experience. So far, it has not let me down.