My ICP placement was located at the People’s History Museum (PHM) working on the Arts Council funded project Play Your Part (PYP). PYP aims to make the museum more relevant to today’s audiences by responding to current events, linking them to campaigns of the past, with the hope of inspiring activists for the future. Beginning in October 2013, I worked alongside the Collections Research Officer and Events and Engagement Officer for twenty days which offered me a great insight into both sides of the project. As PYP is an experimental project that looks at different ways of getting visitors involved through putting on ground breaking and quirky events, pop-up exhibitions and looking at the collection in a new way I was able to choose the strands of the project I wished to focus upon.
It was decided with my placement supervisor that my initial task was to curate a pop-up exhibition in the foyer space on ‘Women in Democracy’ for POLLfest, a politics festival to celebrate Parliament Week that runs in November. Having studied women’s history previously I already had some idea about the key moments for women in UK democratic life, however, it was a mammoth task and one of the challenges was deciding who to include in the small amount of space I had available. The space I had been given was the glass wall which separated the museum foyer from the café and therefore any display I created needed to be double sided. Along with the Curator at PHM, I decided to create a timeline that highlighted some of the key moments and influential women in UK democratic life since 1918, when women were allowed to vote in parliamentary elections for the first time. I spent a day in the photograph archives selecting images for each of the women to be included before writing each one a label and a small introductory text for the exhibition. I really enjoyed this task as it was a great opportunity to be involved in an exhibition process from forming the idea, researching it, through to putting it up, plus I got to do some work in the archives!
Once the initial task of creating the pop-up exhibition had finished I started work on the longer term project PYP on Tour! This tour gave us the opportunity to take the museum out across Greater Manchester to spread the word about PYP, create relationships with local campaign groups and raise awareness of the contemporary collecting strand of the project. This was my first real chance to get involved in the engagement side of the project which I enjoyed even though it could be challenging at times! Through contacting local campaign groups, we attended the Barton Moss Community Protection camp (the proposed fracking site in Trafford) and group meetings, such as the Bolton Against the Bedroom Tax, as well as heading to Rochdale and Littleborough Peace Group’s street stall. From this experience I have learnt not everyone will respond to your first contact or at all and that persistence is key. However, with those groups who did respond I hope I have created a lasting relationship with for the museum.
My work only covers a small part of what PYP hopes to achieve but I feel I have definitely played my part in the project and you can too as PYP continues into its second year http://www.phm.org.uk/about-us/play-your-part/ !