A TIME travel experiment which saw young people living like their ancestors in a historic North East castle has been highly commended in a prestigious national awards scheme.
Last year’s Time Travel Northumberland project – billed as 1840s Big Brother – involved 35 teenagers spending four days inside Featherstone Castle in the Tyne Valley, dressing, working and living as people did more than 170 years ago.
Stripped of their modern-day gadgets such as mobile phones, iPods, computers and televisions, their only contacts with technology were a film crew and youth planning team documenting their immersive experience.
They were taken back to early Victorian times, and had to live, learn and entertain themselves, as well as cooking their food according to the ways of the mid-19th Century. Cut off from the outside world, they made do without electricity, baked their own bread and prepared meals from basic ingredients.
Now the project has earned Woodhorn Museum and Archives Centre near Ashington a highly commended rating in the annual Museum and Heritage Awards.
It was shortlisted in the best educational initiative category – for making local history accessible and interesting for young people – and narrowly lost out to Historic Royal Palaces and Hampton Court Palace for the top award. Judges felt so strongly about the project they gave it a highly commended award, along with the Science Museum.
Woodhorn placed ahead of the National Archives and Epping Forest’s Open Spaces project at the awards ceremony in London, and received its award from comedian Sue Perkins.
Time Travel Northumberland is a partnership project delivered by Woodhorn Museum with support from the Northumberland Youth Service. It is funded by NE-Generation, the Legacy Trust UK regional programme, creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Yesterday Juliet Hardy, a creative mentor at Woodhorn and project coordinator for Time Travel Northumberland, said: “This recognition is fantastic for the museum and for the young people who took part and is richly deserved.
“We used our archive and local history to engage and inspire the group, but it was their vision and energy which turned ideas into a living reality. History is a powerful learning tool and it is so rewarding to see Northumberland people and Woodhorn Museum recognised on the national stage.”
Ashley Brown, senior youth worker at the Northumberland Youth Service, said: “What we have seen throughout the life of this project is a special transformation in the young people who took part.”
The young time travellers are working towards a series of major public events this summer which celebrate and mark the Cultural Olympiad.
In August, Time Travel Northumberland will again host Heritage Big Brother, this time taking the group back in time to the 1940s and wartime England, where they will encounter rationing, the threat of bombing, invasion and the domestic and cultural activities of the time.
They are also planning the first re-enactment of the Morpeth Olympics since the event was last held in 1958.