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Culture Awards North East Museum of the Year finalists: The 1940s Farm at Beamish, Stand Up for Woodhorn and Wor Life 1914-18

Judges were on the look out for innovation, delighted visitors and the revelation of seeing collections and resources in a new light during 2014.

This award recognises innovative and excellent interpretation in a project developed by an accredited North East museum or gallery in 2014. In particular, judges were looking for projects that revealed collections in a new light and inspire and delighted visitors.

Beamish: 1940s Farm Project

Home Farm at Beamish was once the model farm of the Beamish Estate, run by a farm manager to demonstrate best farming practice to other tenants. For several years, the Farm was set in the Victorian era and buildings, machinery and décor reflected the period.

A decision was made to bring the farm into more recent history and a period still within living memory – the 1940s - to illustrate life on the Home Front and the era when Britain’s farmers saved the nation from starvation.

1940s Farm at Beamish

At the outset, it was planned that this would be very much a community project working with community groups to collect their memories of life in the 1940s in order to create an accurate snapshot of rural life during the Second World War.

The farmhouse and farmyard reflect the era, there’s ration cooking in the large kitchen, with wartime music playing softly on the wireless. The farmer and his labourers are ably assisted by the Land Girls who live in Garden Cottage across the way.

Next door is Orchard Cottage, which recreates the home of a family of evacuees. The cosy cottage is full of fascinating and familiar sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of the 1940s.

It’s an ideal space for groups of older people and people living with dementia, their families and carers, to enjoy together. Groups enjoy a range of activities using a host of different senses from toasting bread and baking, to pottering in the garden, playing traditional games, having a sing-a-long around the piano and creative story telling.

Museum director Richard Evans says: “We’re thrilled that our 1940s Farm has been shortlisted for the North East Museum Award. It is a credit to everyone who has been involved. The 1940s Farm brought together a whole host of staff, volunteers, craftsmen and especially local community groups in the research, design and implementation of the project.

“The nomination is recognition of the dedication of all of those involved.”

Website: www.beamish.org.uk/1940s-farm

Twitter: @beamish_museum

Stand Up for Woodhorn

Learning through laughter proved highly effective and enjoyable during the Stand Up for Woodhorn project at the Ashington museum.

North East comedian Seymour Mace became the UK’s first comedian in residence and took on the job of helping the community share their memories and turn the coal and mining history of the area into educational stories full of humour to help bring local people together.

The resulting work highlighted the connections between heritage and humour as a way of strengthening community links.

Stand Up for Woodhorn

While residing at the Woodhorn museum, Seymour also mentored fellow comics John Whale and Andy Fury. Collectively the group visited a wide range of community groups to collect stories and share stand up skills.

Behind the scenes Seymour conducted comedy workshops with museum staff, which proved to be a great way to explore new

skills, develop confidence and interpersonal skills and also to break down barriers.

The innovative Stand Up for Woodhorn has already been crowned the winner of Project on a Small Budget award at the prestigious Museum and Heritage for Excellence 2015 ceremony, for the wave of new audiences attracted to the museum.

Keith Merrin, director of museums and archives Northumberland, says: “We are really excited to be nominated for a Journal Culture Award for what we think is the first Museum Comedian in Residence anywhere in the World right here in the North East.

“It is a great boost to our team of dedicated staff who really threw themselves in to the idea of working with a comedian as well as our brilliant visitors and community members who shared their own funny stories with our comedian.

“It is also brilliant news for the funders of the project, The Happy Museum Project, who were willing to back our belief that comedy can play a really valuable role in facilitating meaningful connections between people and their heritage, art and environment.”

Website: standupforwoodhorn.tumblr.com

Twitter: @Woodhorn

Wor Life 1914-18, Tyne and Wear in the First World War

The Tyne and Wear archives presented Wor life 1914-1918 in partnership with Sunderland Museum and Heritage; a series of events and exhibitions exploring life in the North East during World War I.

Two of these extraordinary exhibits were Home of the Heroes: South Tyneside in the First World War and Screaming Steel: Art War and Trauma 1914-1918 in the South Shields Museum and Art Gallery and Hatton Gallery respectively.

Wor Life 1914-18, Tyne and Wear in the First World War
Wor Life 1914-18, Tyne and Wear in the First World War

Home of Heroes looked at the South Tyneside heroes on the home front and abroad, from soldiers to seafarers and those risking their lives to build ships, make ammunition and bring vital rations into the region.

The horrors endured by soldiers in the trenches and those suffering from shell shock in the area were presented in Screaming Steel, which showed the creative work that resulted from artists like Wilfred Owen’s responses to the trauma on the battlefields of Europe. As well as displayed materials, the exhibitions also featured workshops and readings to engage visitors.

Alex Boyd, project coordinator, Wor Life 1914-1918, says: “The Wor Life team at Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums has worked so hard over the last year to bring this extensive programme together and I think the nomination shows how dedicated they’ve been.

“The programme has offered people here an opportunity to engage with the local First World War story which is so important to our lives, even today, 100 years on. We’re very humbled to be recognised for our work commemorating the centenary.”

Website: www.twmuseums.org.uk/worlife

Twitter: @TWArchives


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