Museums are not just about their contents, important though the exhibits are. It’s increasingly recognised that museums have an important part to play in the well-being of people generally, and not just that of their normal visitors. London Transport Museum keenly supports this view and is working to develop its services in less conventional ways. Indeed its very successful volunteer programme is an excellent example of an activity that benefits both the museum and the individual.
Hence the “Happy Museum”: a programme that has been developed with a number of other museums (such as the Godalming Museum and the Story Museum, Oxford) to explore the opportunity for increased sustainability through wider and deeper engagement with all potential audiences. Funding for the “Happy Museum” has been provided by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England, amongst others. One result of LTM’s engagement with the “Happy Museum” has been a project with St. Mungo’s, the homelessness charity, aiming to help excluded people engage positively with society.
A number of potential volunteers for the project were identified by St. Mungo’s, and they met with LTM staff at an Open Day in late 2012. As a result a group of St Mungo’s clients have been engaged in voluntary work at the museum, working closely with the curators. I met Chris Daniels at the Acton Depot one day recently, where he was busy cleaning a train of 1938 tube stock inside and out in preparation for the Acton Open Weekend. Chris also volunteers with St Mungo’s itself, and has been busy gardening; he confided in me that he was very glad to be working indoors on this particular (very cold) day. So was I!
Chris told me that he had enjoyed his 3 months volunteering with LTM, and had been involved in bus cleaning as well for the open weekend. Although his working life had been in the water industry, he has always liked transport. In his own words, “I’ve enjoyed working here as volunteering people are family. It helps my state of mind, and it’s nice to meet other people.” A sentiment that I think many volunteers would echo.
Dave Olney, Volunteer
As part of its celebration of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground and in addition to the wonderful restoration of Metropolitan Jubilee Carriage 353, London Transport Museum is running a series of creative learning projects with community groups across London. These projects support their participants to undertake creative activities, inspired by the carriage and its heritage, which culminate in the display of a public exhibition. As well as discovering London Underground’s unique history and heritage, the volunteers also have the opportunity to undertake a relevant piece of accredited learning through the National Open College Network or Arts Award.
All of the projects are inspired by the history & restoration of Metropolitan Jubilee carriage No. 353 and our volunteers have created a range of interpretative exhibitions based on what they have discovered which have included photographs, story-telling, film, posters, songs and a huge ‘carriage through time’ installation. The exhibitions have enthused local people to find out more about the story of carriage No. 353, London Transport Museum, the 150th anniversary of the London Underground and their own local heritage. The project has been made possible thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum Friends.
Over the course of the project, the blog will reflect the stories and achievements of some of our participants.
I arrived at the Museum bright and early this morning to join the wonderful Vicky from Design and Kath from Displayways for the installation of new text panels and graphics in our World city walk gallery. It’s always exciting to see the outcomes of projects we’ve been working on go into the main galleries. I was particularly excited about this one as it has involved contribution from the public, the Museum’s Young Consultants, along with past project participants.
The World city walk enhancements are one part of our extensive Stories of the World programme. Earlier last year we ran a number of focus groups with members of the public to explore the programme’s development. As part of this we asked participants for feedback on the World city walk gallery. Our Young Consultants also reviewed the gallery and came up with a number of ideas for enhancements. In fact, this was one of the first curatorial projects that the Young Consultants were involved in so it’s great that they’ll get to see its completion.
In terms of feedback, people agreed that the gallery was visually impressive, but wanted further information about its key messages. The Young Consultants were keen to emphasise that some of the content going into the Museum’s galleries was developed in partnership with individuals and organisations from London and beyond.
So how did we do this? The World city walk gallery invites people to explore the similarities and differences in transport modes and usage across different world cities, whilst exploring the key message that ‘transport is the lifeblood of the city’. This statement is now one of the first things that visitors will see as they enter the gallery. Along with being printed in English, it has been translated into Japanese, French, Mandarin and Hindu to reflect the languages spoken in the world cities that feature in the galleries. The Museum is very keen to maintain links with people who’ve taken part in our projects and we asked some of our contacts to assist with the translations.
Along with an introductory text panel and prints of the city names that feature, we also have a text panel explaining that some of the content featured in the galleries was co-created with the Museum’s audiences. We’re looking forward to installing a number of outcomes from engagement projects over the next few months.