Today, pupils from Four Dwellings High School came to the library to get started on the Young People’s Archive – thanks to Raheem and Lucy for their first blog post! I worked with Bathsheba, Shelly and Tia, who are going to be the exhibition curators.
Children's Lives Young Curators
We had a really productive meeting, discussing what curators actually do and things that they liked and disliked about exhibitions. The girls then worked together to arrange some images into themes and then each wrote a label for an image. We then discussed ideas for the exhibition space – the girls all had brilliant ideas of the kinds of things they’d like to include – it’s going to look great! Finally, the whole group went back to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery to look at the space again. All of the pupils were really impressed with the stunning Lost in Lace exhibition and I think everyone went away feeling really enthusiastic about the coming months. Watch this space!
Documentary photography workshops started in school this week, the second of our skills training workshops for the young people creating and curating the 21st century part of Children’s Lives.
Last week we focussed on story telling skills, how to listen to the stories of others and how to tell the stories of your own life in a confident way with lots of description and detail. See Juliet Fry’s Blog post for more details.
Re-visiting some of the photographs we had seen in collections in the archives a couple of weeks ago was useful, both for reminding us of images we liked and for triggering a discussion on which photos were effective in telling a story of the past. Everyone seemed drawn to a different style of photo and it gave us a sense that there were many ways to take a documentary photo and many different styles to consider when trying to capture something that may tell us things in the future. We considered landscape photos (Warwickshire Photographic Survey), posed studio photos (Dyche Collection), school photos (Waverley School Collection), photos taken by charities working with poor children in early 1900s and more contemporary photographs by Vanley Burke and George Hallett. The focus for the workshop was thinking about how we could capture our own documentary photos for the project and how to select the right photo that would say something about the contemporary life of young people. We had a good discussion on whether posed or natural photos were more effective as documentary photos and which of these styles would tell more about the lives of young people in Birmingham now.
There was just time to practice taking a few photos in the playground and around school and to have a chat about photography permission forms before our session came to an end.
With half term next week, the idea is that the young people on the project will have some time to start documenting their lives through photography, where they go, who they hang out with, what sports, clubs and activities they do, what it’s like living in their house, down their street, in that area of the city. Keep a look out for the results…..
I was lucky enough to work with four groups of Year 8 students from Waverley and Four Dwellings Schools to help them begin to be storytellers and talk about different aspects their lives and to explore what kinds of things they’d like to record for the Children’s Lives exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
I found the young people in both settings to be very open, funny and confident in telling us their stories even though for three of the groups we had never met before! During the session the students were asked to describe and talk about what they did after school, what their bedrooms were like and to share with each other their most precious objects and what they did to escape into their imaginations.
What came across was how much technology is a part of their lives and a tool for their continuing friendships out of school and how important their families were to them. It’s going to be very exciting finding out what stories make it to the exhibition and how the young people will respond to becoming archivists and part of the archives themselves!
Juliet Fry, Head of Projects at The Play House
On their first visit to meet the team at Birmingham Central Library, the school groups were also able to visit Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, to see where their section of the exhibition will be displayed.
Pupils from Four Dwellings High School at Birmingham Museum
The visit went really well for each group. Andy Horn, Exhibitions Manager at the Museum, kindly offered us his time, even though he was extremely busy (huge thanks Andy!). The school groups learned from Andy about the process of planning, interpreting, developing and creating exhibitions. We were lucky enough to visit just as the recent Home of Metal exhibition was being taken down so the pupils got to see a side of Museum life that they wouldn’t normally see – there’s more to it than just hanging nice paintings!
Pupils from Waverley School at Birmingham Museum
The two schools were visiting at different times but by chance the pupils from Four Dwellings arrived earlier than expected while Waverley School and the Project Team were in the Museum. As a result, both schools were able to see and meet each other – though brief – much earlier than it was thought possible. A very positive outcome of the day!
The day was immensely successful. Not everything happened the way we expected. And we certainly had to think on our feet. But pupils from both Schools were absolutely awesome! A delight!
We look forward very much to continuing this work!!!
The Young Peoples’ Archive project finally started this week with our two schools – Waverley School and Four Dwellings High School – visiting the Archives at Birmingham Central Library. Most of the historical information and material which tells the story of Children’s Lives will come from the Archives – and the Young Peoples’ Archive, containing the stories of young people, will be kept in the Central Library once this project has been concluded. This resource will begin to give young people a voice within the archive and will be available for generations to come as a permanent record of both life today, and of the project itself.
Pupils from Waverley School at the Archives
At the Archives, each respective school group was split into two groups. One group took part in a workshop which looked at different kinds of material from the collections relating to childhood histories. The other group went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the archives to see where some of the material is kept – a very special opportunity that most people do not get!
The young people were also asked to consider the different themes being covered by the project and the different activity groups that they will be divided into. The themes of their project echo themes contained within the main exhibition:
- Home or Family Life
- School and Education
- Outside; Street Life, Parks, Clubs, Sports, Friends
- Imagined Life; Play, Escapism, Role Play
- Children as represented by adults
- Pupils from Four Dwellings High School
The groups were asked to place archival material into the themes they thought were the best match, encouraging them to start thinking about the areas we want to explore and hopefully help them come up with ideas about the different kinds of things they might document, record and talk about.
The project also involves organising part of the Children’s Lives exhibition, which will open at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in March 2012. Each of the groups will be divided into smaller activity groups and we asked the young people to think about which one they would prefer to join. These activity groups will enable the pupils to develop specific skills related to professional roles and careers. The skills and insights they will develop will then enable them to undertake set tasks with important aims, objectives and outputs.
The groups are:
- Archivists – they will archive and catalogue material gathered or created by the project
- Curators – they will plan, select and organise material for display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
- Communicators – they will market and promote the project, leading on the celebration event, and will regularly blog here, enabling communications between the schools and us at the library
- Recorders – they will record young peoples’ stories, through social documentary photography, oral histories and film, and will research and collate material
To be continued!
Image used with kind permission of Vanley Burke. Not for reproduction
We have begun the selection process of archive material to show the two groups of young people from Four Dwellings High School and Waverley School when they come in to the archives in two weeks time to kick start the Young People’s Archive part of Children’s Lives. This project has been long in the planning…..so both Izzy and I are itching to get started, to meet the young people we’re going to be working with and start talking to them about the project.
Looking at the material with Nicola today felt exciting and affirming of the young people’s part of the project; there are some fantastic archives of children’s lives in Birmingham Central Library Archives, beautiful images which tell you much and raise many questions, funny, quirky and sad accounts of children’s lives from school records to instructional manuals to youths on how to stay healthy: “Every morning take a cold bath……”1 But, as you would expect, the voice of the child is very quiet. And, that’s hopefully where the young people come in…
In our first workshop we are looking back at the lives of children in Birmingham through official records, through memories in oral histories; through photos, manuals, reports and newscuttings. There are rich and diverse collections that tell many stories. The Young People’s Archive part of the project will add to these collections in an important way, especially by helping to include more young people’s voices.
We are starting the project knowing that that this is only a beginning. We are excited to be adding to a collection in the words of young people – and equally important is that the young people themselves record these stories and experiences. These stories will form part of the Young People’s Archive, which will be found at the Library of Birmingham.
Hope you enjoy reading the blog!
1 From Suggested Rules of Health and Other Information for Youths at Bournville, MS1536, Box 5