Would you like to come and spend a day exploring our collections? Assistant Social History Curator Nicola Pullan reveals how to do just that at one of our study days.
Like most museum services we have large amounts of collections that are not always on display or that are not suitable for being displayed in a traditional museum case. That doesn’t mean that the material isn’t interesting or important – but it does mean that people find it harder to know we have some items or to see them.
As a way to try and open up access to some of these collections some of the curatorial team have been running study days. I have found these to be particularly useful for social history, as people are able to bring their own memories with them to the sessions to share with the rest of us. So far I have developed a study day looking at local suffragette Leonora Cohen, and another looking at the retail history of Leeds. Later this year I will be adding another topic to my list: childhood.
What do study days consist of?
Each curator has their own format, but I like to spend the morning giving an illustrated talk about our subject of the day using images from our collections to illustrate points in the discussion. This gets people thinking so they have lots to talk about when they head to lunch in the café!
For example, in the retail study day we start with a discussion on how shopping itself has developed in the last 150-200 years through looking at trends and technological changes. Then we look through a range of images from different retail spaces across Leeds from the museum collection: some more familiar than others.
In the afternoon is an opportunity for people to explore a small selection of museum items relating to the subject of the day. Depending on the topic I like to bring out objects including old photographs, postcards and catalogues, packaging or other material from the collections not currently on display for people to look at up close.
By Nicola Pullan, Assistant Curator of Social History