Hello everyone! My blog this week is all about an outreach activity which took place on Monday 4 August at The Forum in Norwich.
As many of you are aware, Monday marked the centenary anniversary of the beginning of Britain’s involvement in World War I. To raise awareness of this and commemorate the people and animals involved in the war effort, The Forum hosted a one day WW1 event. Visitors were encouraged to ‘take the King’s shilling’ at a recruiting office, discover how to research their family military history, view wartime documents, take part in craft activities and much more.
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse was previously contacted and asked to take part in the event alongside colleagues from The Regimental Museum Collections in Norwich, Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Library Service. We wanted to focus on the less well known parts of the war effort, including the later creation of the Women’s Land Army, the input of heavy horses and of children.
Ben (Skills for the Future Heritage Farming Apprentice) and Katie (Learning Officer) both attended in period costume as a farmer and a woman from the Women’s Land Army respectively. They talked to visitors about the kind of jobs involved in farming – a key part of the home front war effort in Norfolk. We also brought Gressenhall’s much loved milking stand where children (and adults!) could have a go at milking a ‘cow’. Women recruited to the Women’s Land Army would have had to train on a similar piece of apparatus, before they could go on to milking actual cows.
Ben also led a popular handling session using farming and heavy horse related objects from Gressenhall, which really tested the agricultural knowledge of the people of Norwich. These items were brought to life by having a real Suffolk Punch horse (like our team at Gressenhall) in the opposite corner of the Forum, courtesy of the Suffolk Punch Trust. This helped to cement just how important these incredible animals were, both working on the land and as war horses pulling heavy artillery.
In addition to this we bought along our Learning Department’s bird scaring equipment, and encouraged families to use our bird-scarers to make a bit of a racket to scare away imaginery birds from eating the seeds sown on the fields. This was a real job which children would often do before and during the war, to ensure that the vital crop was not decimated by feathery oppertunists.
With these three activities centred around heavy horses, the Women’s Land Army and children, we hoped to really improve visitor’s experience and understanding of other, often forgotten, elements of our WW1 victory campaign.
We supported this understanding by also offering three crafts which families could have a go at, including peg dolls, Women’s Land Army arm bands and peg-legged horses. All three were exceedingly popular and I helped to supervise and instruct the children (and their parents) in how to make them. I felt that these activities worked well and helped even the very young children to understand some aspects of the First World War commemoration, as well as giving families the opportunity to talk about what the commemorations meant to them on a personal level.
Overall it was a a thought-provoking and enlightening day speaking to visitors, helping to raise awareness of the part played by Norfolk during WW1.
TeachingMuseum Events Trainee
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse