Lighting a Fire
Joe's story is about the closure of Etruria Industrial Museum and how his fears about it were challenged.
It felt like the museum had died. It was my first full time job as a fresh faced graduate; museum assistant at Etruria industrial museum, stoke on Trent. The museum was open 5 days per week and run by a small team of staff and volunteers. However, in March 2012 local authority funding cuts brought about the near closure of the site. What had been a full time concern for me was reduced to about 2 hours on a Thursday evening to enable volunteer work parties to continue. So we polished brass, weeded paths and kept the machinery oiled and clean but every week the place felt a little more lonely and unloved. The beam engine, princess, sat stationary in the dark. It’s hard to put into words but the absence of the public created an intense sadness. I struggled to disentangle myself from my old role and embrace the new. I now had another job and other priorities and felt guilty I couldn’t give the museum the same time and energy as before. It was hard to accept so many things where now out of my control, but it all changed the second we started a fire. We began the Monday to Friday boiler warm up for our first steaming weakened at the new era and for seven days the mill was alive with people and sound. Over the weekend the public, who’s absence I had keenly felt turned up in force to support us? I took my turn starting princess and felt the usual knot of nerves and adrenaline in my stomach and as I watched the beam rise and fall I realised that as long as princess lived so would the museum. Throughout the success of that first weekend and subsequent steaming’s, I have seen the volunteers rise to face all manor of challenges and it is truly their museum now and this gives me hope for the future. Thinking of the museum today, I don’t think I’ll ever fully disentangle myself but I don’t think I’ll ever truly want to.
Train the trainer at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Museum
A group of museum and heritage professionals from across the Midlands came together for a three day training session at Ashby Museum, learning how to run digital storytelling workshops. Each person made their own digital story.