Ashby de la Zouch Museum Digital Engagement Projects

Ashby de la Zouch Museum Digital Engagement Projects Blog

Digital story telling and oral history

What is happening with the weather?  We will certainly be glad when Spring does finally come.  So many events around the region have to be cancelled because of it.  We have had to cancel our film night tonight when we would have been showing Brian Langtry and Len Holden’s film about the Dirty Thirty.  However, a small exhibition on The Dirty Thirty has been opened today at our Museum and will run until the last week in May.  Photographs of the Dirty Thirty then and now, newspaper cuttings and posters.

Sound Advice, new approaches to oral history, the conference run in London last week by the Museums’ Association certainly lived up to its promise.  First up was Hilary Young, digital curator at the Museum of London with plenty of useful practical advice on converting analogue recordings to digital.  Some of the main messages were:

Know what you want to convert and why, i.e. what will the future use be?

Plan and prepare properly

Make plenty of backup copies on hard drives or in the cloud.  Optical storage such as CDs and DVDs are not good enough.

Next was Jemma Conway, community heritage curator at Barnsley Arts and Museums.  Jemma described an exciting project using sound to find out more about objects and people’s stories (this sounds very much like our Talking Objects project).  They plan to have a community space with a booth with a TV screen and space for visitors to record their own stories.  They began by asking people who donated objects to talk about them but this got out of hand as there were too many donations!  They resolved this by grouping the objects into themes and inviting people to talk about them.   Themes could revolve around the former employees of a particular company, national service, students, and “Coming and Going”.  I thought this could help us plan the way ahead for our Talking Objects project, rather than choosing interesting objects at random.

The projects led to equal importance being placed on the stories as on the objects within the museum but they key thing I thought was that there must be a way for visitors (actual and virtual) to hear these recordings.  They shouldn’t just be sitting on a shelf in the archive which is where our oral archive is at the moment (but not the Talking Objects films).  In Barnsley, local people have been trained and are now working on their own projects and donating them to the museum – great idea!

Julia Letts, oral history producer, talked about oral history projects with schools.  The exciting thing was the way in which she had linked school children with old people in the community and got them talking to each other.  The stories that the old people told were recorded but were also used to inspire further work by the children in art and drama and led to exhibitions and  drama productions.  Julia had plenty of good tips about approaching and engaging schools too.  Some of her projects were low budget or even no budget so no reason why everyone shouldn’t have a go.

Alex Henry, a digital storyteller and oral history practitioner from Curiosity Creative showed us some of the lovely projects she had worked on and we had some interesting discussion around the difference between digital storytelling and oral history.  The main thing seemed to be that the people telling their stories had thought about them beforehand and written them down.  These were not just sound recordings but also included a series of pictures and photographs chosen by the storyteller.  Alex told us “Museums are all about telling stories and collecting history.  Digital stories are little snippets (one or two minutes long) and can bring an otherwise static museum to life.”  We are very keen to try something like this ourselves; another great way of reaching out to the community and giving them a voice and a way of recording their stories in an engaging way.

Tilly Blyth, keeper of technologies and engineering at the Science Museum told us about the use of oral history in the museum’s new communications gallery and how it had acted as a catalyst for change across the wider museum.  User stories are at the heart of the visitor experience there.

Finally, Jo Reilly, Head of participation and Learning at the Heritage Lottery Fund discussed the funding for oral history projects and how these might sit within the body’s new strategic framework which comes on stream in July 2013.

There was a lot to take in but it was very motivating and inspiring.  Also in the same week was the Engaging Children and Young People workshop at Newark at which we gave a short presentation about our participation in this programme.  The main presentation was about Child Protection – a very important but very complex area – so it was good to get some help and clarification and to be pointed in the direction of good online resources.  The Sir John Moore Foundation also gave a very impressive presentation on the projects they run with teenagers, many of whom have become disengaged with school and learning but through projects at the Foundation gain valuable skills and self esteem.

Next week, Robert Jones, trustee and co-founder of our museum, will be giving a talk on the Story of Market Street.  This takes place on Wednesday 3rd April at 7.30 and seats can be booked at the museum.  Robert has lived all his life in Ashby and worked in Market Street himself in the family pharmacy business.  He has collected and wealth of material on this topic and is the author of a book about Market Street.

Our regular Kids’ History Club takes place on Saturday 6th April but note the new time 1pm to 4pm.  It’s FREE entry and the theme is The Wild West.  Many thanks to Time Consortium Jewelers for sponsoring this club.






Art in the Museum

Today was our Art in the Museum day.  We were delighted to welcome five members of the Zouch Art Group who sat and painted or drew throughout the day.  Objects included an old doctor’s bag, an interesting group of pots, a tin hat and a tennis racket.  One person even drew and painted Bullen’s grocery delivery bicycle – not an easy subject!

Leicester Mercury were in this morning so look out for a photo in the newspaper this week.

On Friday a young art student from Derby University visited us.  She will be putting on a small exhibition of her work in our museum in August.

Nice to see young people using the museum as a resource and talking of that we are looking forward to attending the Museum Development event “Engaging Young People and Children” at Newark on Thursday when we will be giving a short presentation about our own events in this field.  Another exciting day is Tuesday when we go down to London to attend the Museums’ Association workshop on using oral history in the gallery.

We’ll be reporting back on both these events next week.  Meanwhile don’t forget to sign up to reserve a seat at our film night on Thursday 28th March, The Dirty Thirty, heroes of the miners’ strike.  There will also be coal-mining related songs from Brian Langtry and Wendy Freer.


Talking Objects films out now

Five more films of people handling and talking about objects from our archives are out now.  Have a look HERE.



More interesting objects

Our bid to give people more access to objects in our archives took another step forward this week.  Three volunteers came in on Friday to handle and discuss some more interesting objects and you will be able to see the results on our website in the next few days.  The objects and the discussions were recorded on film and we are in the process of editing the films now.  Objects included some Victorian children’s costumes, a Napoleonic box, a net purse and a shopping list compiler.

Above is the Napoleonic box.  It is thought to have been made by Napoleonic prisoners of war but we know very little else about it.  Have a look at the film and see what you think.  All suggestions gratefully received.

Our film The Stone has been edited and should be viewable on YouTube and through our website some time in the coming week.  Schools will be hearing about the Children’s Writing Competition this week.

We are looking forward to welcoming Zouch Art Group to the Museum this Saturday, March 16th when they will be painting and drawing in the museum.  They will be choosing objects from our collections as subjects for their artistic efforts so it is yet another chance to see hidden artefacts from our collections.

We are running this event as part of the Ashby Tourist Information Centre’s event Celebrating Tourism which marks the start of National English Tourism Week.  Ashby Library will be filled with stalls, demonstrations and exhibitions by local tourism businesses.  Should be a great day.  Please spread the word.

Advance notice of another event in the Museum:  Thursday 28th March we will be showing a film about The Dirty Thirty, the Leicestershire miners who supported the miners’ strike in 1984.  Based on a book by David Bell, this film was made by local film-makers Brian Langtry and Len Holden.  Before the film there will be a short performance of coal mining related songs by Brian Langtry and yours truly.  Come and support us.  Performance starts at 7.30pm and entry is £3.  Seats can be reserved by calling in or phoning the Museum on 01530 560090.

From March 28th onwards there will also be a small temporary exhibition about The Dirty Thirty consisting of photographs, posters, poems and newspaper articles.  This will run until Thursday 24th May when we will be getting ready for the start of Ashby Arts Festival – more information about that nearer the time.


About this Sponsor

Ashby Museum was established in 1982 in a small cottage in Lower Church Street. In 1991 it relocated to its present home in North Street, where it shares the old National School building with the town Library and Tourist Information Centre. In 2006-7, thanks to a major Heritage Lottery Fund Grant, a two storey extension was added. It is a Registered Charity and is run by a group of trustees supported by over 50 volunteer custodians. It won the Leicestershire Heritage Award for best temporary exhibitions in 1998, 2001 and 2003. In July 2007, the museum won Museum of the Year in Leicestershire. It works closely with the county Museum Service and other independent museums in the area, sharing expertise and artefacts.