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Museum Community Project Shortlisted for Two National Awards

Museum community project shortlisted for two national awards
A community history project managed by Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth, has been shortlisted for two prestigious national awards
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Seaside Suitcases, a handling box project, has received a Highly Commended in the Collections Trust Awards, and is up for the main prize in the Museums Association’s Museums Change Lives Awards, with the winner due to be announced on 3 October at a ceremony at the MA’s annual conference.

The Seaside Suitcases project worked with local harder-to-reach organisations including Herring House Trust, a support hostel for recovering addicts, to co-curate a collection of accessible resources for use by, and within, the community.

The group, many of whom had not previously visited museums, formed a team of community curators and was given supported access to the museum collections and archives to research and select themed artefacts for the handling collections.

With guidance from museum staff on conservation, access and display techniques, the group produced two ‘Seaside Suitcases’ packed full of local heritage including pictures, clothing, photographs, advertising brochures and souvenirs, ready to take out and share with the community.

The project was not just a success in terms of this end result – the sessions proved so popular that the group expanded during the course of the project as original members brought friends along to join in. Contributors gained in confidence, feeling empowered to continue working on the project outside of the formal museum-based sessions. Images, facts, stories and objects were gathered from friends, online or by word of mouth and added to the ever-increasing collection of objects.

Several members of the group have continued to volunteer in the museum archives, helping with documentation. Some have also been interviewed by BBC Radio Norfolk and have bravely donned period costume for Time and Tide’s Museums at Night event, engaging museum visitors, answering questions and demonstrating objects.

Patricia Day, Project Officer, says: “We’re thrilled that the hard work of our community curators has been recognised with these two nominations. Between them, they’ve contributed more than 180 volunteer hours to the project and have produced a wonderful and accessible community resource full of fascinating heritage which will prompt memories and discussion in the community as a whole. In doing so, many contributors have re-connected with their local history, grown in confidence and now see culture and heritage as part of their lives.”

Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities, Norfolk County Council, says: “This project has truly ‘changed lives’ engaging a group of people who would not normally see themselves as typical museum visitors. It demonstrates how important our museums are in fostering community spirit and enabling people to gain new skills. The project volunteers and staff thoroughly deserve this recognition and we wish them every luck on Awards night.”

Seaside Suitcases is one of several community projects supported by the Seaside Heritage Programme which is funded by the wider Great Places - Making Waves Together initiative supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund; a three-year programme which aims to use culture as a driver for economic growth and community pride.