Both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between

October 13, 2010

From an exhibition of treasures selected by four year olds to the survival stories the Holocaust, the outreach team at Kirklees runs programs which have meaning for the community.

I had a great meeting with Kim and Mashuda in Dewsbury. This town has done it rough over the last few years with all kinds of publicity around tragic and horrifying events. The new exhibition at the Dewsbury Museum, though, aims to show people that there is more to this town. Inviting locals to share their ‘special places’, the exhibition is a series of lively portrait photographs with an explanation of why the subject has chosen the place. Some interpretive text gives context and weaves the series together. The exhibition opened in August, and in that month 6000 people visited. In a town of only about 55,000 that it quite an achievement!

The team has worked with all kinds of people on a wide variety of projects – including an exhibition with pre-schoolers, who were asked to bring along  ‘treasures’. All manner of objects showed up, including a pair of black plastic party shoes with blue glitter, and a BMW camper van. The participants shared their stories about why these were such treasured objects, and the labels were created from these narratives. And public interest was stirred by the exhibition.

The cover of the DVD 'Food for Thought'

An annual event is Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the team prepares a different activity each year. Last year six informal meals were hosted in the community. At each, one Holocaust survivor and one community member who had faced more recent persecution shared their experiences. The food had been selected to relate to the stories in some way. For example a cake with silver candles was served at one meal, where a Holocaust survivor described her 18th birthday in Auschwitz, when her cake – lovingly prepared by friends – was no more than two pieces of stale bread with some aluminium shards for candles. As part of the process the guests at the dinner were all invited to share what they were going to do in their lives to ensure that such persecution is avoided in the future. The meals were all filmed, and there is now a DVD and a recipe book (which includes some of the stories and responses from participants) which document the event – very, very moving.


2 Responses to “Both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between”

  1. Catherine Says:

    I love the idea of asking four year olds to bring in their ‘treasures’ – a great example of how Museums don’t need to own ‘stuff’ to mount meaningful exhibitions too.

  2. Jill Says:

    I agree Catherine, and that ‘value’ is in the eye of the beholder. Lovely idea.

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