Volunteers create exhibition of most unusual pieces

A DOZEN young volunteers have dipped into a treasure trove of more than 4,600 items in museum stores.

Kim Walker, young voluntary curator at the Great North Museum, with a crocodile headdress

A DOZEN young volunteers have dipped into a treasure trove of more than 4,600 items in museum stores.

They could choose any object which caught their eye and had a story to tell and the result is a new exhibition called The Curious Case of...., which will explore the history behind the pieces and how they have ended up in the Great North Museum: Hancock’s world cultures collection.

The exhibition opens at the Great North Museum today and runs until September 23.

The volunteers, aged from 17 to 24, responded to an appeal by the museum to create an exhibition.

Many of the items were brought back to the North East over the last 250 years by travellers, soldiers and sailors, collectors, naturalists, missionaries and colonialists.

Among the items chosen are:

Possibly the only coat in the world to be made from sea sponges. Donated by Capt Richard Collinson in 1857, it could be a fisherman’s jacket or a padding to be worn under armour, but the museum has no idea on its place of origin.

A bag made from a seal’s paw.

Ornate “Aladdin” slippers worn by Turkish soldiers to show their status, which were collected by George Allan more than 200 years ago.

A set of glass photographic slides taken a century ago by journalist Joseph Burt who travelled to Angola to investigate claims that slavery methods were being used to provide British chocolate manufacturers with cocoa beans.

A 5ft long wooden Nigerian headdress in the shape of a crocodile.

A Maori nose flute from New Zealand.

The Curious Case of… forms part of the Journeys of Discovery project, the North East’s contribution to the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World. As part of the project, more than 100 young people from the region have “travelled” through the world collections of North East museums.

Sophie Robinson, project co-ordinator for Journeys of Discovery, said: “It is very exciting that all the research and hard work that the young people from a variety of backgrounds have done over the past year has come together to form a major exhibition.

“Those involved picked objects they were drawn to for whatever reason.

“The exhibition is interactive with live discussion boards and an online forum, and I hope visitors will take this opportunity to join the conversation and contribute their own thoughts and ideas.”

To coincide with the exhibition, the young people have organised a series of events catering for a range of ages and interests, which will take place at the Great North Museum: Hancock throughout the summer.

Visit www.journeysofdiscovery.org.uk for more information, or find the project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/journeysofdiscovery.

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