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Objects that tell stories

Women’s pop up museum

Working in collaboration, Create Learn Connect, Hastings Museum and Hastings Women’s Voice are giving the women of Hastings a chance to create their own museum installation, celebrating their lives and histories. HOT’s Grace Vogiatzis spoke to one of the organisers, Chris Sanders, to find out more about the project.

The idea for the project started, Chris tells me, with research into museum and gallery attendance, finding statistics showing strikingly the lower attendance from disadvantaged and minority groups. “Museums and galleries have no relevance to these groups, as they don’t see themselves represented. You know, its not their history. That’s a very big gulf.”

Our popular understanding of history is certainly marked by these gulfs: often it is dominated by an all male cast of political figures, dealing with wars, high politics and the manoeuverings of the wealthy, occurring in a distant past far removed from our present. We often don’t see our own lives, the connections we make and the stories we have to tell, as a part of a history that immediately surrounds us, one that is worthy of museum space.

With this pop up museum, it is precisely our own little histories that Chris is looking to focus on, launching a project that allows women to create something of their own making, marking their own lives and journeys. The project intends to build up an exhibition of pieces created and curated by the women involved, combining artistic, visual and written forms of story telling.

Intending to house the exhibition both in Hastings Museum and at a location in the community, Chris explains: “We wanted to make a project that was owned by women, not by a museum. The idea was – this is your history, these are your stories, and the museum can come to you. We want to try and get that exchange between the museum coming out and people going in. ”

The projects aims at taking inspiration from objects people own that have stories to tell, “because we’ve all got those funny things at home that we might have picked up on holidays, or that people have given us, or that we’ve inherited, and you might want to do something with it – make some prints, put some print on a tile, do some sewing or make a poem or a blog about it”.

For those of us who may at this point be recoiling from the idea of writing poetry or doing arts and craft, Chris is encouraging: “I think it’s really important for people to experiment and look at different ways of telling their stories. Craftwork is a good way of getting groups to talk and people together. The reality of adult education is there’s very few opportunities to do that these days; it’s a much more formalised process. We wanted to do something where people could explore – and explore their own creativity – because everybody has it.” Equally, for any technophobes, I.T. support will be on hand.

Starting with a taster session at Hastings Museum on the 29th, three different workshop sessions will follow, devoted to textiles, creative writing and tile making, so there should be room for everyone to find an area they are comfortable with.

With the project being the first of its kind, its future is uncertain. Chris is certainly keen for the work to continue in some form, planning to hold a session after the pop museum has been launched to discuss its future. “Maybe it could be the start of women’s pop up museums all over the place – it would be great if someone else took up the idea in another town, another city. That would be fantastic.” She doesn’t see the concept as limited to women either, seeing its potential with other groups who wouldn’t usually attend Museums, such as young men. “What kind of pop up museum would interest them?” she muses. “An Arctic monkeys one?”

The museum sets off with a taster session on Tuesday 29 April, 10am to 12pm at Hastings Museum – complete with tea and cake – that is open to all.

Posted 10:15 Monday, Apr 28, 2014 In: Community Arts

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