Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scissors, paper, stone

Wakefield Museums recently secured funding from Arts Council England to commission an artist to create an installation using museum objects in an innovative and exciting way in a special showcase in Wakefield One – the building in which Wakefield Museum is based. 

Local artist Rachel Sim will be using 5 stone heads from the museum's collections in a piece called ‘Scissors Paper Stone’.  Rachel will explore the themes of renewal, reinvention and the passing of time in Wakefield.  She will create a series of sketchbook drawings of the architecture, patterns and textures of Wakefield.  These will inspire structures and prints that will be formed into a 3D installation -a cardboard city. The stone heads (from buildings in Wakefield) will then be placed on plinths within the cardboard city, allowing the viewer to peak through and spot them. The installation will be in place from 23 November.

In the meantime come along to Wakefield Museum today, 
25 September 5pm -7.30pm and have a go at printmaking with Rachel Sim. Drop in and take part in creating a large scale relief print of Wakefield or make images to take home with you. This event is suitable for everyone, children and adults, and is free. 

This event is part of the Wakefield Artwalk

Drop in at any time between 5pm and 7.30pm

Thanks to Rachel for this guest blog post:

Last week I met up with John Whitaker, a curator, and we paid a visit to Wakefield museum storeroom.

As with many museums only a small selection of the collection can be displayed due to lack of space. The Warehouse in a secret location holds a huge selection of Wakefields history. Objects that have been collected, found and donated fill up this space.

The shelves are stacked full of intriguing objects and artefacts where every item is carefully numbered and archived. The collection ranges from a giant old fire engine to piles of boxes holding all sorts of important little bits and pieces.

The main reason for my visit was to examine the 5 keystones to be shown as part of the installation - Scissors Paper Stone, which I am currently working on with Wakefield Museum and Council. This installation will be on show from Mid November.

After John very carefully removed these from the shelf (which is second nature to him but looked terrifying to me) we measured and detailed the stone heads and I had the opportunity to take some photos for reference.


The heads have some lovely details carved onto them including a rose, pearls and buttons for the females and two beards, one straight and one curly for the gents.

The details of where these stone heads originated is unknown but it is likely that they were once part of a building on the Westgate that was torn down. These stone heads are the remains.

As part of the project I have recently been taking photos and exploring the details of Wakefield's varied architecture. In my research I am looking at past and present buildings and have started to make drawings and prints, which I feel reflect the city.

I will be running a drop in workshop as part of the Wakefield Artwalk where anyone is very welcome to join me in looking at the city through doing some basic relief printmaking.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Bronze Age pot from 4,000 years ago

An Early Bronze Age pot which could be up to 4,000 years old has been studied this week at Wakefield Museum by a visiting researcher from Bradford University. Debbie Hallam is researching Pygmy Cups from the north of England as an MPhil topic.  So far over 200 vessels have been tracked down,  and although cups from North and East Yorkshire form a large part of the Northern assemblage, examples from industrialised areas are much rarer and therefore of great interest.

These enigmatic small cups were made as funerary vessels to accompany the body in the cremation pyre and were recovered after the funeral rite and placed in a round barrow or flat grave with the collected cremated remains. In many cases they are found in association with larger urns known as Collared Urns or Food Vessels or in rich graves along with prestige items such as jet, amber or bronze knives.  Although their use is not generally well understood, they have been referred to as ‘incense cups’ because they have small holes drilled in the side, apparently to allow airflow to burn something like incense at funerals. In the Northern collection many of the cups do not have any holes or perforations and this challenges their use as incense burners.

By researching the larger Northern collection as a whole, the study hopes to provide new information about the date and purpose of these pots. Debbie said “most cups are extremely individual, however the Mitchell Laithes cup has some form and decorative similarities to one from Wensleydale, and if this proves to be evidence of an individual craftsman then this will be very exciting, particularly given the distance between the two find sites”.

Wakefield Museum’s incense cup was found during an archaeological excavation at Ossett Sewage Works at Mitchell Laithes  in 2007. In the Bronze Age a barrow was built on the site, which contained 3 cremations, one of which contained this pot. These were carbon dated to 1920-1680 BC. It is on display in Wakefield Museum.

We were also able to give Debbie new information on another incense cup found at Oulton in 1873, the location of which is not known. As a sketch was published in J W Walker’s History of Wakefield’ she may be able to identify it if it survives unlabelled in a museum collection. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meet the Roman Messenger!

Today we have been working on a new interactive video game for Castleford Forum Museum which uses the objects on display to test your knowledge of the Romans!

The new game is called 'The Roman Messenger' and involves answering multiple choice questions to reach a goal - some are trickier than others. Would you be able to guess what this is for?

Mystery Roman object - would your 'Roman Messenger' be able to guess what it was for?
The game has already proved itself popular with the museums team as we tested out the questions.  It's amazing how competitive grown adults can get! We are rather relieved that the Learning Officers all scored full marks - so you can rest easy that family workshops and schools visits to the new museum will be in capable hands!

The new game will be available on a screen when Castleford Forum Museum opens later this year - do come in and give it a go!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Casing up Castleford

Progress at Castleford Forum Museum is rapidly moving forward.
We have just taken delivery of the specialist museum cases, which look amazing in the new space. 

This is the case for the Iron Age chariot

The cases are designed to keep museum objects safe, secure and in the perfect environment (with the right temperature and humidity).  Trays for materials to control the humidity are built into the cases.

In built LED lighting is not only energy efficient but also is cool to protect the objects.

This case is built into a museum structure - the hole next to it will be filled with a screen to show films of Castleford.

You can see here that there is stonework waiting to be installed.

During manufacture and installation of the cases, strong smelling adhesives and cleaning products are used.  There has to be a 'gassing-off' period where the cases are left open for some time, before the objects are installed.

All that is left to do now is fit the graphics, mount the objects, install the objects, prepare the object captions, finish off the structures, fit the AV, sort out the interactive elements.....

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What a packed summer!

Over the last 6 weeks we have been delivering summer holiday family workshops.

From making butter at Sandal Castle, to squeezing oranges at Wakefield Museum (with our under 5 visitors) to looking at what amazing, curious and even eccentric people have come from the district - our teams have provided activities to keep our younger visitors busy over the summer months.

Family workshops have given us the chance to delve into the wonderful past events that make Wakefield the city it is today.  Providing a mix of interesting facts with hands on activities has allowed children to connect with the past in fun and varied ways.

As well as booked sessions, there were drop-in activities at both castles and museums, giving families the opportunity to create leather bookmarks, design a coat of arms or take part in a holiday trail.  

There's more to come! 
We are already looking ahead and planning sessions for the October half term, so if you would like to be added to the family activities mailing list please send us your e-mail address.

Wakefield Museum provides children’s activity sheets and digital trails on a daily basis for families to enjoy.  Just ask a member of the museums front of house staff for more information.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bricks, Crocs and Blocks

If you love LEGO® then head over to Wakefield Museum on 14 September to see an amazing LEGO model display.   Featuring models by members of Brickshire, the Yorkshire LEGO User Group, this display is to celebrate Heritage Open Day. Brickshire will be showing models from a galaxy far far away, a huge city layout, and a Charles Waterton tribute.

Brickshire created model of Charles Waterton riding the caiman out of the South American jungle.

You can take part in one of the many activities or competitions, and even have a go at building something yourself. We'll be awarding the best builders, and those with the keenest eyes with fantastic LEGO prizes.

There is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy, and it's for kids of all ages (even the big kids like us!) so be sure to visit, you'll be amazed.
Saturday 14 September 2013, 9am – 4pm. FREE ADMISSION.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Curate Your Own

A guest-post from Judi Alston of One to One Development Trust - about a project funded by Wakefield Council's Creative Partners Grant Scheme, working with Wakefield Museum...

Most people have something that holds a special significance to them, it may be a piece of jewellery, a picture, a toy from their childhood, an ornament from a grandparent or parent, a tool from a trade, or medals won in a war.

Curate Your Own is an inter-generational digital media project encouraging participants to explore their personal heritage through storytelling whilst contributing to a 3D virtual People's Museum installation.

The canvas for Curate Your Own was blank until our participants started contributing their stories and photos. A rich and diverse tapestry of life and human experience began building up.

The artefacts are the key to this beautiful project, the triggers that encourage and sometimes unlock participants to share something special. A modern dictionary of anthropology defines an artefact as ‘an object of any type made by human hands’. It is the human connection between the ‘object’ and our participant that is all important. The question is asked ‘what is it in our lives that is significant and has value’. Often these artefacts lack financial value what sits behind them is a deeper mindful connection, often to times past and people who have gone. Reminiscing is life affirming and promotes a sense of self identity so often lost through old age or lack of opportunity or aspiration.

Horse Groom for the Queen
As a participant holds up a doll she’s had for 90 years, her eyes sparkle and an infectious smile lights the room, she talks of her family, what they ate, the games they played, the clothes they wore – a vivid picture of life in Knottingley in the 1920’s. She laughs with embarrassment ‘you’re not interested in this surely’ the other members of the group hanging onto her every word reassure her they are, and its true they are. Photographs are taken, filming is done. A younger participant contributes a photo of her xylophone, it’s from the 1970’s and is her ‘antique’ – its pop art style face ‘makes me happy and reminds me of my childhood’. The generations are talking, laughing, sharing and telling.

Research in early sessions showed that the majority of participants had not been to any cultural attractions in Wakefield including museums or galleries, trips were organised, large coach booked and plans made to introduce them to the new Wakefield Museum. The results were amazing. A consensus of awe, excitement and enthusiasm.

Addy Luncheon Club at Wakefield Museum
I can’t believe this is in Wakefield

I will tell our lad about this so we can come with the grandkids

Its free, certainly not boring and the people working here are sound and tell you all about whatever you want to know” 

when are we coming again?

Sharing memories at Wakefield Museum
Stories triggered by the museum exhibitions flowed freely, local knowledge was abundant, staggering even the knowledgeable and hospitable Curator John Whitaker. The process of successful community engagement was realised, it began where it should on the doorstep of participants, in the community, in a local safe environment. Without building confidence and a relationship between participants, their stories, and the digital artists – the trip would not have been so successful or creatively rich. 
Doreen Z having fun with wigs
The 3D Peoples Museum is curated by the participants who've contributed. Visitors who will explore the virtual environment, can navigate through a 3D space, they are accompanied by Poppy the museum cat. The contributions from all the participants are on the walls and on display, there are interactive video and audio clips that can be accessed.

Curate Your Own Gallery
As digital artists we are pushing the boundaries of storytelling by seeking new and interactive ways to make the stories of the past accessible to new audiences in the future, it’s important we strive forward with our own creative practice and Curate Your Own is a great platform for stretching what we can do . This creative process is attractive to many of our older participants who want their stories preserved and valued and appreciate the process of creative exploration within this project.

Participants will all get a printed booklet from the project celebrating their stories as well as another trip to the museum to see the installation in place in situ. Curate Your Own will also be available online and DVDs of the stories will be distributed freely to contributors.

Curate Your Own is working with groups in Knottingley, Portobello, Airedale and Kinsley as well as encouraging contributions through social media via twitter #curateyourown

The installation and booklet will be launched in March 2014. Curate Your Own is run by One to One Development Trust a Creative Partner of Wakefield Council. 

For more about Curate Your Own and our other projects please follow us on: