This year, the students of Durham’s MA Museum & Artefact Studies course honoured the local men and women of County Durham involved in the First World War through the creation of an exhibition and associated education pack.
For their course, each team was asked to commemorate some local aspect of the war in order to connect with the ‘Somme 1916’ exhibition on display in Palace Green Library.
“Coming up with the idea took some time and discussion,” says Emily Jeffers, a member of the exhibition team. “We knew we wanted to focus on local community involvement and not just military aspects. Creating a gender balance was also really important for us, since military history has tended to neglect women and minority groups.”
The learning team told the stories of local men and women through “the development of objects for handling, emotive audio poetry, sessions analysing primary sources and through the creation of different characters “who were designed by a local artist to visually bring the historic stories to life,” explains Katie McLean.
For both teams, the project gave students a new perspective on the process of exhibition and education development within the cultural sector, and most importantly: communication. In order to produce a successful exhibition and education pack, both teams had to communicate with each other along the way; down to the last detail.
“We had a non-hierarchical group structure which was sometimes challenging to manage but we were successful in terms of communicating effectively with one another overall,” says Chloe Wong.
Setting Up the Exhibition
From start to finish, students from the exhibition team sought to remember the men and women of County Durham in an educational and respectful manner. Through involvement with local community groups, the team was able to assemble a narrative about the “Munitionettes & Miners” which included profiles of individuals who worked at home and abroad for their country. From the initial research to the closing of the last display case, the team gained first-hand experience in the creation of a museum exhibition.
“Because we were planning the exhibition from start to finish, we learned things that will help us in our careers like panel design, text-writing, exhibition installation and artefact conservation,” explains Surbhi Bhambri.
Creating an Education Pack
The Learning Team was tasked with creating an education pack which would also highlight the various roles of County Durham men and women at home during the First World War. This pack will be used in schools around the county as well as within the museum for visiting groups. The team agrees that “the project was a great learning experience. We not only developed proficiency in historical enquiry, but also learned to produce materials for students with different learning styles and needs. We hope teachers and students will have as much fun engaging with the activities as we did in creating them!”
Both teams celebrated their project completion with an exhibition opening and presentation of the education pack on May 26th at Palace Green Library. The event was attended by friends, families and local members of the community. In the end, both teams gained invaluable working skills which will be built upon in their future careers.
“The MA Museums & Artefact sat Durham University’s Archaeology Department aims to balance thinking and doing – and the ‘Munitionettes & Miners’ exhibition and learning pack are brilliant examples of students producing professional quality work at the start of their careers. Both moving and thoughtful, these will have wider impact as they ‘pop-up’ around the region and are used by visiting school children.”
Mary M Brooks Convenors Museum Communication module MA Museums & Artefacts
“Munitionette’s and Miners: County Durham Heroes of the Great War” will be on display at the Museum of Archaeology at Palace Green Library, Durham until October 16th. Admission is free. Palace Green Library is open on Monday from 12-17h00 and Tuesday-Sunday from 10-17h00. Education pack available for Key Stage 3.
Find out more at www.durham.ac.uk/archaeology.museum/
The Museum Communication’s class is made up of students from around the world who are interested in pursuing a career in the cultural sector:
Malcolm Adams, Worcester, UK, Surbhi Bhambri, New Delhi India, Anya Chappell, Northallerton UK/Geneva Switzerland, Joseph Gacksetter, Rockford USA, Emily Jeffers, Bridgewater Canada, Louise Logan, Washington UK, Katie McLean, Forest Canada, Sherryl Xuan Pan, Shenzhen China, Carmen Parr, Wiltshire UK, Michele Siladi, Newtown USA, Emma Slinger, Northallerton UK, Gemma Scott, Peterlee UK, Robyn Temple, Mechanicsville USA, Sophie Wills, London UK and Chloe Wong, London UK.