At Weston Museum, we have a Young Archaeologists Club that we call ‘Rusty Club’ after our mascot ‘Rusty the Iron Age Dog’ (our younger visitors chose his name!). Rusty Club was pleased to have been one of the Young Archaeologists Clubs chosen to receive one of the ‘From Ordinary to Extraordinary’ awards last year. We decided to use it to create a professional looking exhibition of content chosen by our club members, which would be displayed in the museum alongside other historical objects and works of art.
We chose the theme of ‘Hidden Histories’ as we feel that our local area is often known for its Victorian seaside heritage, but there is so much more to it than that and we wanted to showcase some hidden gems. We held a few sessions leading up to the exhibition where we explored the topic of ‘Hidden Histories’ and what it could encompass; we considered locations, stories, people and events. We also looked at the different stages and methodologies that were required to bring together a museum exhibition, from considering the roles of different museum staff and volunteers to the practicalities of text sizes and accessibility.
Subjects and images were then chosen by the group members (including the adult helpers) and submitted to be sent off to the printers. Once the images had returned, we had a session framing them (which the club members did themselves) and arranging how they would be laid out across the display boards.
With our ‘Hidden Histories’ exhibition, we really wanted to encourage the club members to choose their own bit of history to showcase and then write about why it was important to them. Each image or set of images is accompanied by a text label written by the club member or helper and these are completely the individuals own words; I’ve purposefully avoided editing them into ‘museum speak’.
We also wanted this text to be accessible to a wider audience so we had it translated. In Weston-super-Mare we have a large population of Polish speaking families and we wanted to encourage them to visit the exhibition too. We used part of our grant to have all the text in the exhibition translated in Polish and have this translation freely available in print form upon viewing the exhibition.
Our Rusty Club ‘Hidden Histories’ exhibition was on display in one of the museum gallery spaces for a fortnight, which included our busiest week of the year, the February half term holiday. It had many visitors and they were all encouraged to draw or write their own choice of ‘hidden history’ on a postcard and leave it within the space on an allocated table. There were many different suggestions, including dinosaurs and fossils, individual people (both widely known and comparatively unknown) and local landmarks. The exhibition also generated increased interest in Rusty Club as a whole and we are pleased to be expecting a few new members at our next meetings.
Written by Katherine Bell, Learning and Events Officer