Museum Futures

Museum Futures

My name is Jenny Cope and I am the Museum Futures Trainee at The Atkinson, Southport. The Museum Futures program is for young people 18-24 with an interest in heritage who haven’t experienced working in a museum or gallery. This year, I will gain practical experience and a level 3 diploma in Cultural Heritage. To share the experience of the traineeship and learn more through reflection, I will be writing this blog regularly.

The time has flown by this month! I have been enjoying increasing The Atkinson’s online presence, having learnt about the style of our social media and The Atkinson’s branding from our Marketing Officer Charlotte. The #OnlineArtExchange on Twitter has had me exploring the ArtUK website to find works from other institutions. These images are shared around a theme, provided by ArtUK. It is a really fun way to engage with art works that would otherwise be unseen, especially during lockdown.

I have also been researching special dates to celebrate, or raise awareness of, through sharing items in our collection. I chose to share a few of the taxidermized birds in our natural history collection for the Big Schools Birdwatch event. One of the birds we have is a corncrake, which has an excellent local history story. I wrote a blog spotlighting this piece and included a voice recording of John Siddall, the grandson of the man who found the bird in 1919. This is a lovely example of a local story that I was proud to share with the community. With the other bird specimens, I thought it would be a fun idea to gamify our posts and simulate bird watching on social media. I researched the birds to come up with some clues and multi-choice answers for each image. Creating a ‘guess the species’ birdwatching game on Facebook. It was a fun way to interact with The Atkinson’s collections from home and Sefton Residents really know their birds!

Museum Development North West launched their #MyLocalMuseum campaign, a fantastic opportunity for us to focus more on objects from our museum archive. Very exciting, especially after the success of the taxidermy birdwatch. For each theme I thought about how to present the images of the collection that I have access to and how to use them to tell an engaging and relevant story. The theme that immediately jumped out at me was about people in and responding to nature. This inspired me to research the history of Southport Flower Show.

Having had the privilege of attending several Southport Flower Shows in recent years it was fascinating to be able to look back at all the similarities and differences between now and the early days. I have always been captivated with maps and aerial images so this one of Victoria Park really excited me. I was especially intrigued to see that the park looked a little different to how we recognise it today. The little train shed in the bottom corner of the image lead me down a path of research into the history of local trainlines. This allowed me to work out when the changes to the park could have been made. A tiny example of discovering the history of my home town, I love finding out the reason things came to be how they are now. Writing this blog definitely boosted my feeling of local pride and I hope it had the same effect on those who read it. It was particularly gratifying to be able to share a story on this topic as we were able to promote the Southport Flower Show.

This month I also gained access to The Atkinson’s collection management system ‘Modes’. Modes has the ability to store many different kinds of information about each artwork or artefact. This includes its acquisition number, digital image, material, condition, maker and more. Any stories attached to objects can be recorded here too. Getting to grips with the database has allowed me to start searching the collection using key words. This was very helpful while researching the Flower Show blog. I was able to find more photographs through searching Modes than I had previously come across and find corresponding information too. I have already seen what a useful tool this is in curation. It is possible to see the extent of our collection and draw connections between objects that might at first seem unrelated. I am learning that Museum documentation is always ongoing, and I am still in early days of learning to use this program as a tool in my work. As I become more confident using Modes, I will be able to contribute to improving the information available. Making the system even more useful for myself and my colleagues.

I have improved my skills in research, curation and writing through these projects. The second theme for #MyLocalMuseum was food and drink, and again one topic stood out to me. I decided to share our stunning historical photographs of local shrimpers and explain the prosses of producing potted shrimp. I am proud that this article has been picked up and republished by Stand Up For Southport and In Your Area websites as well as being published in the Southport Visiter.

Written by Jenny Cope, Museum Futures Trainee

Posted on 3 April 2021 under General news, Museum

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