‘Experiencing The Great War: York in World War One’ and ‘Memories of St George’s Hall and Cinema 1921-1965’

Posted on 4 September 2012

Whilst completing an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture at the University, I decided to take some time to focus on strengthening and broadening my experience and skills set.

I began looking for opportunities that would allow me to apply the research tools I had developed and enjoyed using throughout my academic career into a context beyond academia. I was then, and still am, a very keen researcher with particularly interests in the cultural sector. I was directing my efforts towards gaining experience with museums and heritage institutions when I first heard of IPUP through a second intern who had attended the introductory meeting for the internship that would produce ‘Experiencing the Great War: York in World War One’: a walking trail of York’s history with accompanying leaflet, podcasts and web app. From her suggestion I was directed to the website where I searched for current projects available to prospective interns.

I was immediately impressed by the relationships that IPUP have formed with local heritage sites and institutions. As a York-born resident with an interest in  local history I was particularly enthused by the prospect of being able to immerse myself into the city’s heritage and gain experience working with individuals and institutions to increase accessibility to history and heritage for the wider community. Their projects seemed to provide a series of excellent opportunities to learn more about the processes involved in applying my academic writing and research skills to a public-facing project, and uncovering and sharing untold stories associated with the city in which I have lived and studied.

My existing interest in York’s theatrical and cinematic past also drew me to the ‘Memories of St George’s Cinema 1921-1965’ Fairfax House project. The project aimed to collate archival information as well as oral histories about Fairfax House’s history as a cinema and dance hall in the twentieth century. I felt that working on a project that reclaims and re-presents part of York’s historical and cultural identity would allow me to build valuable experience working on local history projects within the heritage sector, whilst providing me with a great sense of pride as an individual and as a resident.

March: Beginning the Internships

I was keen to be involved in both projects, feeling that York’s twentieth-century history, although very rich and relevant, is often neglected due to the focus on its Roman and Medieval histories. These interests were also reflected in my non-IPUP-related activities. My other efforts to gain experience in the museum sector had led me to be in touch with John Hoyland, the HLF Changing Spaces Community Co-ordinator at York Castle Museum, when I had enquired about the availability of research-focused volunteer opportunities for the museum’s planned exhibition to commemorate the First World War centenary: ‘1914: When the World Changed Forever’. After some email correspondence with Helen Weinstein and John, my efforts were consolidated into a single project encompassing both the IPUP walking trail and volunteering opportunities at York Castle Museum.

March 15th:  Induction Meetings - new faces, extraordinary objects

March the 15th was my official introduction to the IPUP projects I was to be involved with. In the morning I attended the induction for the St George’s Cinema project at Fairfax House and later that day I attended the World War One meeting at Helen Weinstein’s office.
The first meeting of the day was with Hannah Phillip, Director of Fairfax House, the project Coordinator Nuala Morse, and five other interns, all of whom I was meeting for the first time. After introducing ourselves and our disciplines, Hannah and Nuala gave details about the project and explained that we would be continuing work that had already been begun by previous IPUP interns. The project had two aspects to it: archival research and oral history. Although the appeal of talking to individuals and documenting their experiences of the past was considerable, I decided that my strengths lay with research and because I wanted the opportunity to develop these I chose to work on the archival research side of the project with one other intern.
In the afternoon I attended the Jewish History Trail, a previous IPUP project, which was led by Helen. This was useful for seeing first-hand the logistical realities and complexities of a public walk whilst highlighting what was required of the content and tone of the information being delivered. It was also my first experience of a public walk and I was able to attend the following induction with a newly-acquired appreciation of what a trail of this kind can offer to the dialogue between the citizens, the city, and its heritage institutions.

I joined the World War One internship after the introductory session had taken place at the Castle Museum, and so I had missed the tour of the museum’s collections that day. Talk of the remarkable sketch-books, photographs and the horse’s gas mask left me disappointed I had been absent, but I would later get the opportunity to view and handle them myself, and, moreover, to photograph them for the museum’s database. The second meeting took place late afternoon at Helen’s office and her hospitality emphasised the informal nature of the meeting and provided an enjoyable introduction to the project.
At this meeting we were given a resource pack listing various archives, practitioners and texts that would guide us in our research. Helen then outlined our aims and outputs, stating that we were to work collectively to produce a free public walking trail of York, with accompanying web app and leaflet, that would tell the stories of the city and its citizens during the Great War. Each intern would work independently to research a significant theme, event or experience and find an accessible geographical location that would function as a metaphor for that specific narrative. The aim was to tell a larger global story of the war by locating it within the context of local history.
Along with the resource pack, Helen had prepared a list of provisional themes and locations that pertained to York’s experience in the war and it was at this meeting that we decided on our area of research. This was a flexible decision as many of these were to be altered and refined in due course as the walk was developed – my own included. The location I selected was Walmgate, a 600m-long street within the city walls and a street in which my family had lived from the mid 19th century to shortly after the First World War ended.  The suggested line of enquiry linking Walmgate to the war was that Walmgate Stray, an area of common land nearby, had been used for trench training drills. This was my starting point.
I left the meeting with both personal and professional enthusiasm for the project: I would be able to pursue a line of research that I had familial links to, as well as gaining a wealth of experience in translating my research for a variety of media and audiences. I could see that I would benefit from working closely with the city’s archives, museums and the professionals that work within them.
Due to the nature of the individual research to be undertaken, the teams decided to establish an online forum using a social media website as a way of keeping in regular contact and discussing our developments, posting links, photographs and information that might assist or interest the group. I set up a Facebook group for the ‘Memories of St George’s Hall and Cinema 1921-1965’ project, uploading some images of the cinema dating to the 1920s that I had sourced online with the aim of establishing this as a space in which we could share material between the archival researchers and oral history interns. The equivalent group for the First World War project was set up by our Intern Project Manager, Catherine Oakley, and the two online spaces quickly became active, providing a valuable way to communicate and navigate resources together. Although these aren’t publicly accessible, many of the links that were shared between us have been collated and located in a resources page to assist other local researchers and enthusiasts whom we have directed to the site via the url provided in our leaflet.

April: Buried in the Archive, and a surprisingly personal ‘find’

I began my research by contacting the archives, libraries and museums in York with enquiries about what they held in their collections. Whilst waiting for responses I started reading specialist texts about York cinemas and York during The Great War to get a footing in these areas. I was able to find a few interesting books dedicated to the subject of York’s cinematic history and the city during the war. From these I started identifying what had been written about my research areas and what had been neglected or was missing.

One of the early frustrations of this process was that many of these texts didn’t reference their sources. I would find an anecdote, image or fact that would excite me, then go looking for the source with the immediate desire to locate it, hoping to read more and see what more could be done with the material, only to find no reference at all. This took some getting used to, especially after coming from the strict referencing systems of academic writing, but I soon adjusted to this and realised that often a reader doesn’t require or desire extensive footnotes or a lengthy bibliography to be attached to interesting narratives. This proved useful in helping me become aware of skills I would require to begin adapting my own style of writing from that of an academic register to one that can communicate to a wider range of audiences, without compromising the quality and integrity of the research.

The main resource for acquiring information beyond secondary sources for both projects was the city Archives and Local History Room, located on the first floor of the York Explore Library. It is a brilliant service for finding information and primary material relating to local history, including letters, diaries and photographs.

Another excellent place for resources was the Borthwick Institute for Archives located at the University of York and one of my visits to the Borthwick institute resulted in an unexpected discovery. As Catherine and I looked through the Armistice Day edition of the Yorkshire Herald newspaper we found a list of POWs that were due to be released from Germany. Scanning the page, we came across the portrait of a Lance Corporal Andrew Mooney (see picture, right). The paragraph below his image mentioned that he had been captured on 25th April, 1918 after spending three years fighting at the front, and that his step-brother, Private Thomas Webster, whose image was positioned above in the paper, had been killed in battle. Knowing that Mooney was my mother’s maiden name, I made a copy of the image and took it home to show her. She confirmed it: Andrew Mooney was my great-great-grandfather. The effect of this discovery was remarkable. I felt as though I was granted access to something I could not have envisaged: I was seeing my own family history and identity being uncovered as the project developed. Seeing the face of my relative and reading about his involvement sparked a very personal realisation about the significance of this research and the importance of creating a trail that allows people to connect with a historical narrative and locate that in their own histories. This new sense of the importance of presenting a shared heritage would return throughout the project, especially during the public walks.

York Castle Museum Meetings: in pursuit of York’s ‘War Horse’ story

April was also the month in which Catherine and I joined the committee for York Castle Museum’s planned 1914 exhibition. We had attended the museum’s ‘1914 Wednesdays’ event and after a chat with John Hoyland about our research and the museum’s plans, we were invited to the first meeting, scheduled for that afternoon, on merit of our knowledge and enthusiasm. The committee was made up of academics and practitioners from various institutions and organisations and our inclusion felt like a real privilege. This made me consider the mutual rewards of museum engagement with its users and volunteers. We, as IPUP researchers, had begun to develop a wealth of knowledge that was useful to the museum, and the recognition of this from a respected museum generated a sense of pride and self-confidence. This in turn created a meaningful and sustained relationship between the museum and the volunteer. This productive partnership in fact then led to me volunteering on a separate project that I will discuss later in the blog.

This meeting, on 25th April, allowed us to get together and present our research, share ideas and consult our museum contact John Hoyland about any objects in the museum collection that could be used to give physical shape to the narratives we were uncovering. Fortunately for me, the castle was in possession of a horse’s gas mask from the First World War. The gas mask was a remarkable object, unlike anything I’d seen before. Upon viewing it I was immediately struck by the realisation that these animals experienced the same dangers as men, whilst fighting at the front. I decided that this would be a fantastic object to add to our project as a way of telling an emotive, object-led history. This interface with the gas mask, which is one that the public can share too when they visit the museum or view the app, would allow me to explore the many facets of local and global histories that relate to the use of horses during the First World War. It made me think about the benefits for research, curation, and user engagement that can be developed from viewing histories through the lens of an object. 

I then took on the extra responsibility of researching the history of the Barbican cattle market in York, which was requisitioned as a war horse depot when war was declared in 1914. We had been aware of the horse depot from the beginning of the project but it hadn’t been selected as a particular area of research by any of the existing interns. As work progressed, I felt increasingly that the prevalence of the ‘war horse’ story in film, theatre, literature and digital apps at the current time suggested that to exclude the history of the Barbican depot would have been a missed opportunity. It was an opportunity to tell a largely unknown history of the city and its global influence during the war whilst taping into current cultural trends of interest. The research I had previously carried out on Walmgate during the war had uncovered information that connected the Cattle Market to the site, so I was able to combine the two subjects.

May: Writing Deadlines and Practical Planning

The archival side of the St George’s Cinema project was well underway by this point. I had sourced information from council minutes and newspaper archives stored on microfilm in the York Explore library. These were of great use, so much so that even the manually-operated machines saved a lot of time (although I couldn’t help wishing during many hours of squinting that one day soon all microfilm collections might be digitized).

Once I became familiar with the dates and newspaper pages that featured cinema listings and the weekly film article, I was able to get through years of print efficiently. Scouring through these also proved useful when I took on the extra responsibility of locating films that had been screened at the cinema for Fairfax House’s annual ‘Silver Screen event. This involved looking through the newspaper archives to find suitable films, preferably screened at St George’s, that fitted  the desired theme of ‘Murder Mystery’. I was able to transfer my new-found familiarity with the newspaper archives to the World War One project, uncovering  letters from residents and articles about the requisitioning of horses where very few other sources offered material.

May also marked the beginning of our call for public assistance with the project. A press photographer was scheduled to meet with myself, fellow intern Jack Rundell and York resident Joan Waters (see image). The press release asked for residents to contact us if they had any memories, ephemera, information or desire to be involved in any way with the project.

May also marked the first of our deadlines for the World War One project. We had been given the task of producing a 300-500 word piece of text for the 16th May. This was to be uploaded to the twentieth-century timeline on the History of York website and represented the earliest stage of reworking our research for a variety of purposes and media. The next deadline, set for the 24th May, required us to produce a 1500 word script to accompany the walking trail.

The following day we all gathered at the Humanities Research Centre at the University of York to discuss the logistics of the trail. Prepared with our scripts, we were now able to decide together on the locations best suited to, and most accessible for, delivering our scripts to the public. After this we discussed the best possible order to arrange the stops and planned the route using Google Maps, taking into account access for wheelchair users, busy streets and the noise levels.

I envision our meeting would have been more problematic had Catherine and I not already attended a meeting with Helen, Dr Adam Gutteridge, Research Associate at IPUP, and Kelly McDonald from York Museums Trust to discuss the production of the leaflets. As it was unusually warm, we sat outside York Art Gallery and talked about the dimensions of the leaflet, the content and the July 7th deadline necessary for the 10,000 leaflets to be printed in time for our August 26th launch.

Due to our walk having a larger number of interns and so at least four more stops than both the other IPUP trails: ‘Walking with the Romans’ and the ‘Jewish History Trail’ we would require an eight-panelled leaflet as opposed to the standard six-panelled one. This also meant we would still have to condense our walk in order for the stops to fit onto the leaflet - and more importantly, to remain within the two-hour time limit for the walk. Later that day, we held a group discussion to share ideas for minimising ground covered and the time taken to read scripts without compromising the integrity of our research. One of the ways this was remedied was by combining scripts that were thematically similar to a single location. Two interns decided to each give their scripts in different areas of York Art Gallery, saving leaflet space and minimising time spent walking between stops. One of the interns also had the inspired idea to anchor the stop that focussed on the railways in front of a painting titled ‘The Return to the Front: Victoria Station’ which meant we could save more time on the walk, engage the public by attaching the narrative to an artefact and promote a York Museums Trust property.

We decided that a private trial of the walk was necessary before we piloted the walk with the public, and scheduled it for Saturday 1st June. We also decided, with some regret, that it was best to reduce our scripts to 1000 words in order to keep the walk within two hours. Through these writing tasks, I  learned how to communicate narratives in varying registers, lengths and formats. Looking back, I can see that this was one of the most transformative and beneficial aspects of the internship and that I have been  able to confidently apply these skills to other projects I was involved with after the internships concluded.

June: Trail testing, Oral History Training and Media Workshop

Meeting at the entrance to the Museum Gardens, we split into two groups to test two slightly different routes and trialled the walk for the first time. At the end of the walk we were able to make quality judgements about the difficulties of specific locations, routes and script lengths. Despite getting slightly lost in Aldwark, the main logistical issue we encountered was that we were running over the allocated 90 minutes. To remedy this, the scripts had to be shortened again and although we were thus forced to cut additional material, for me this became another opportunity to refine my writing. I now had to condense what were essentially two related stories into around 800 words, so I spoke to the other interns for feedback as to the strengths and weaknesses of my current script. I was then able to successfully concentrate what I had already written into more efficient prose without feeling as though anything had been lost. After some revisions to the walking route, we were set for our public pilot on the 24th June.

Prior to the public pilot, Helen Weinstein offered the interns from all the IPUP projects the opportunity to join her for two training sessions. The first was an Oral History workshop which focussed on the methodologies, ethics and practice of gathering oral histories. This was great as I was now able to get the training that the interns on the other side of the St George’s Cinema project had received. It was also useful as I had been in discussions with my local rugby club around the same time about the possibility of gathering oral histories for a project on the history of Heworth ARLFC, the club I have played for since my childhood. The second of these workshops focussed on Media Training and the writing of press releases and included a press-release writing task. This was particularly useful in regard to understanding protocol and the benefits of utilising the assistance of the press and media efficiently.

On the same day, the ‘St George’s Cinema’ interns also had a meeting that Helen had arranged with Tim Addyman. Tim is an enthusiast and specialist in York’s cinematic heritage. His name was one that I had repeatedly encountered whilst attempting to source material and information on York’s cinema history. He agreed to give a presentation for us, kindly offering us access to the images that he had rights to, some of which are available online here. This was a particularly pleasing outcome as Tim’s involvement had come directly from group contact and cooperation, with wide-ranging benefits. Tim was able to present his work to an appreciative and engaged group that would use and cite him as a source, and I was able to share some information that was new to him.

The Public Pilot

The lead-up to our Pilot Walk was characterised by a level of collective uncertainty amongst the interns as we were unsure of how many people might join us. We hoped that the additional coverage that had come from the inclusion of the IPUP Pilot Trails into the annual University of York’s Festival of Ideas and the Western Front Association’s newsletters would draw greater interest from the public. Around 40 people arrived at the steps of the Yorkshire Museum. Amongst this group were citizens of York, visitors to the city, members of the Western Front Association and York Oral History Society and academics. The turn-out was really encouraging and confirmed the feeling I already held that this was a worthwhile pursuit. I knew that the trail and the scripts were prepared and had no doubt that what we were sharing with the public was thoroughly planned, researched and of real value to the community and the students. This was reinforced by the excellent feedback we received both on the walk and after. We were in continuous dialogue with people, sharing information with each other whilst we walked between stops. After I delivered my script, one gentleman from the Western Front Association came up to me and commented on how well-researched my script was which meant a lot to me and validated what the hard-work involved in the research and writing and. The feedback we received both during and after the walk was really positive and useful for making final adjustments before our official launch. The way we collected these was by using a prototype, four-panel leaflet that I designed and printed off in preparation for our walk. On this leaflet we had contact details for IPUP and a specific email address for the project that people could contact. With only a few changes to make regarding the route and minor factual checks, the Pilot Walk felt like a success.

July: Leaflet & Web App Production

Although the research was complete and we had no more alterations to make to the walking trail, July was still a busy month. I had to locate, compile and send a document with photographs of war-time York to Helen Weinstein.  These images were to be used on our web app and had to pertain to each interns’ script. Although time-consuming, it was fascinating to see the occupants of York’s past and familiar city buildings and landmarks as they once were. I used theYork Images online resource (previously Imagine York) - a photographic archive that documents 150 years of York’s citizens and streets and has some truly remarkable images, many of which were included in the web app. Along with this, I took responsibility for providing Historyworks’ professional photographer Ian Martindale with details of the modern-day locations we wanted photographs of, to make the leaflet and app more user-friendly.

We were also kindly granted permission by Graham Relton at Yorkshire Film Archive to use two stills from a film titled ‘5TH BATTALION YORK AND LANCASTER AKA BARNSLEY BATTALION (1915)’ which shows soldiers gathering on St George’s Field and marching over Lendal Bridge in York. We selected one of these to be featured on the front of the leaflet.

The next stage was co-writing, editing and arranging the content and map to send to Kelly McDonald (YMT) for the July 7th leaflet deadline.  The process of creating the content for the leaflet took a lot of consideration. At first we tried to include as much information as possible for each stop, thinking that the leaflet should be self-sufficient for those using it who may not have access to smartphone technology. Knowing that YMT wanted as much uniformity regarding content and aesthetics between our trail leaflet and that of the other two leaflets being produced, I spoke to Adam Gutteridge to clarify whether this was the correct approach. He suggested to me that the leaflet should give enough information to interest a user but should also direct them to the web app where all of the content would be uploaded. This would include a short introductory section of text, followed by the full scripts and accompanying audio as well as high quality images. With the aim of promoting use of the partnering web-app we cut down the text, making the content and the visual appearance less dense.  
I’m glad that was the desired design as the leaflets looked fantastic when they arrived in August. The finished product and all its panels can be viewed as a PDF here.  

August: The Big Launch: Production, Presentations and Photo Calls

I spent the beginning of August focusing on a presentation that I would give to the Friends of Fairfax House to update them on the St. George’s Cinema project. This was scheduled for their biannual meeting which took place on the 6th August. I had written a script and made a PowerPoint presentation which incorporated archive images and was designed to inform those at the meeting about the project, as well as to request their assistance and involvement. Two other interns each sent an audio file of one of their interviews to Nuala Morse, who edited and forwarded me a clip to incorporate into the presentation. The presentation went really well and at the end of it a number of audience members asked questions as well as sharing anecdotes and memories about the cinema. Many passed on their names and contact details, keen to be further involved. It was a really enjoyable experience and incredibly useful opportunity to gain valuable feedback as many of the Friends weren’t previously aware of the project. After some discussion about why this may be, they felt that the flyers weren’t visible, or when they were, were not interesting. With Hannah’s approval, Nuala and I cooperated on an updated flyer that was now more visually arresting and effective. This was a great experience as it showed me that audience feedback is crucial in understanding your successes and failings.  I was able to identify that regular evaluative process, as well as facilitating the continuation of good practice and providing models for future application, also prevent the repetition of methodologies that may hinder a project. It was also a useful experience in boosting my presentation and public speaking skills, as well as my personal confidence.

August was also the month in which we had to prepare the podcasts and the web app for the World War One trail. I began by taking the scripts and through focusing on sentence structure and rhythm, I edited them so they would function better as spoken word recordings. I was also able to sit in on the recording process and witness the further refinements that were made during the production process by HistoryWorks Media Director Jon Calver and City Archaeologist John Oxley, who provided the narration. I saw this as an opportunity to gain further insight into the ways to make the information work for different outputs and purposes. Once the scripts had been recorded, I worked on Content Management System provided by Sumo Designs to upload and arrange the text, images and recordings within the web app. We were now all set for the final launch of our ‘Experiencing The Great War: York in World War One’ Walking Trail. Helen and Adam secured a slot live on BBC Radio York to promote the trails, the Yorkshire Evening Press published a two page spread and online article about the project, and the web app went live. 
The public launch was set for 4pm on Sunday 26th August. It was led by three interns that day: myself, Catherine Oakley and Jennifer Tonkins, as most of the other interns had returned home after completing their MA courses. After what must have been a long day with various other events including the annual York river flotilla, we had at least 40 people (and a dog) join us. We led the walk with no problems other than a huge downpour at around Stop 6. Huddled under some trees we asked everyone if they would like to continue and they were keen to carry on.

As on the Pilot Walk, many people were keen to share their stories and knowledge. One woman came to me and mentioned that she had travelled to York because her family had lived here during the war. Another man who had spent the majority of the walk towards the back of the group with his wife came up to me midway through the walk and explained that he’d come along with the intention of just listening and observing the walk but wanted to show us some things he’d brought with him. In his pocket he had a photo of his grandfather as an elderly man, a medal and another photo of his grandfather dressed in military attire alongside his horse at the Strensall Barracks just outside York. The gentleman told me that he had first brought those photos with him so that he could “take his grandad on the walk with him”. My own familial links to York’s early 20th-century past heightened my understanding of the importance of these memories and the opportunity to share.

I feel that this also displays the relative success of the project. We had created something that people had consciously made the effort to participate in, and we had made them comfortable enough to actively engaging with their own histories and with us as a group. Instead of producing an authoritative product, we had succeeded in creating an open dialogue with people about shared histories.

When we ended the walk by the war memorial in Dean’s Park, many of those who had accompanied us on the walk stayed to chat and to give contact details so that we could continue discussions and share materials. It was a satisfying experience and I’m pleased that this project is ongoing: far from being the final output, the ‘launch’ of the trail on August 26th is, we hope, just the beginning of a rich and exciting series of developments.

Current projects and the legacy of the Internship

I had begun the internships with the hope of developing skills that would equip me for a future career within the museums and heritage sector. I look back on my experience of working on the internships and I realise that I couldn’t have imagined at the start the extent to which they have developed very specific skills and influenced my critical responses.

The ability to take the rigour and critical approaches of academic research and apply them to work within the public domain has been one of the most valuable skills I have acquired. I have learnt how to translate my research into formats and registers that are interesting, entertaining and can be accessed by a range of audiences. An example of this can be found in the work that I did with Historyworks to produce the ‘To Fight Or Not To Fight’ sound installation for the Audio Digital FX conference, organised by University of York's Audiolab at the Guildhall, York.  I worked to a brief to research content for a site-specific audio drama that has resulted in interest from BBC Radio York and Pilot Theatre with whom we are currently developing follow-up projects. More information and an audio recording can be accessed via the Historyworks’ website.

IPUP nurtured my interest in presenting shared histories to a wider audience. I had gained experience in creating and arranging content for digital apps during the internships which provided me with the necessary experience to successfully apply for a four-week internship at London-based Ballista Media. This involved using skills I had refined and learnt with IPUP to research, edit and write content for ‘Timeline Battle Castles’ iPad App to accompany TV historian Dan Snow’s Battle Castle series, and their World War One app which is currently under development.

The nature of the partnerships involved in the IPUP internships allowed me to liaise and forge relationships not only with our partner organisations but with local archives, museums and individual specialists. As a result of this I then went on to volunteer on York Oral History Society’s latest project; the digitisation of 250 hours of original recordings conducted with First World War veterans in York, Cambridge and London during the 1970s and 1980s. The project has financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and aims to communicate the material to the public through a variety of outputs, including written publications, CDs and public events in the run-up to the centenary anniversary of the First World War. I also went on to volunteer at the York Castle Museum working within the museum space as a public face of their future First World War exhibition’s preparation, cataloguing the museum’s WW1 materials in a designated area open to the public. My focus was on interacting with visitors to promote the exhibition, demonstrating the processes behind its development and to nurture community participation in its content.

The internships also helped shape my critical insights into aspects of public engagement and how the relationships between museums and their visitors and volunteers can be mutually beneficial. My close work with Historyworks and IPUP after the internships had been completed meant I was able to pursue roles that aligned me closely with current debates and discussions centreing on public engagement within museums and universities. I am currently involved in two projects that focus on facilitating discussion about public engagement and the impact of museums and academic work.

The first of these is the ‘Supporting Practice in Participation’ project. This is an Arts Council funded project in partnership with IPUP, The Diversity in Heritage Group, The Collections Trust, and The British Museum aiming to encourage museums, heritage institutions and arts organisations to pool expertise about public participation.  My role is both administrative and research-based and has developed my familiarity with current discussions, debates and case-studies surrounding participatory practices at a range of organisations.

The second project is entitled ‘The Public History of Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine’ (PhoSTEM) and is a series of workshops funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and coordinated by the Science Museum, London; IPUP; and the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds. These workshops are designed to facilitate relationships between UK heritage organisations and research institutions and to encourage reflective practice. These events provide opportunities for those working in arts management and academia to develop accessible and innovative ways of encouraging public engagement with the history of science, technology, engineering and medicine. My role involves writing reports for the workshops and, much like the ‘Supporting Practice in Participation’ project, it allows me to be part of, and witness to, the current discussions surrounding public engagement. The first of these reports can be viewed here in PDF format.   

My CV is now a concise illustration of the many transformations and opportunities that arose from the IPUP internships. They presented with me new challenges regularly, together with support and training which will undoubtedly continue to aid me in my career.

Sam Johnson

IPUP Intern