Home of the Infantry Regiments of Berkshire and Wiltshire

National Memory Local Story Schools Project ? Exhibition 2nd ? 6th September 2014

National Memory – Local Stories is a creative participation project, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and led by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in partnership with Media 19 and five national and local area museums across the UK: National Museums Northern Ireland, National Museums Scotland, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum and Redbridge Museum, London.

Project summary

This innovative project explored how the discovery of locally relevant objects from museum collections, via creative digital media production workshops, can engage young people and artists in responding to significant moments in the history of the First World War.

As the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War approaches, the stories and knowledge of this conflict are no longer in living memory.  This contributes to the history being perceived as distant and disconnected from many individuals including young people. However, on examination the links are still there through personal stories, objects and museum collections. We are seeking to develop these local stories as a way into understanding the scale and impact of the First World War at the time and its ongoing legacy today, and in relation to current conflict throughout the world.

The use of anniversaries and centenaries by museums, galleries and heritage sites is a common device.  Through this project we aim to explore how to make these notable dates relevant to young people.  The results of this will not only link to the ongoing events surrounding the First World War centenary commemoration (2014 – 2018) but will be applicable to other such anniversaries for the National Portrait Gallery and the wider sector.

The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum took part in the project with museum staff and volunteers who worked for two weeks with ten children from Avon College, Durrington and then two weeks with ten children from Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury. We also had an artist in residence for the month, Henny Burnett. Artefacts, photos and archives from the museums’ collection were used and the children also learned about our catalogue system called MODES.

The Participants from Avon Valley College, Durrington
Avon Valley College is a very small rural school in the middle of Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge. The school is made up of 40% pupils from army personnel based in the area.  The school’s Art department seeks, encourages and participates in as many ‘live’ briefs as possible. The creative work undertaken for National Memory – Local Stories was seen as one of the most exciting and prestigious projects the department had ever worked on. At the outset of the project, three of the participants were from army families.  As the workshops progressed, a number of the participants discovered other family links as well as some very personal history within the records at The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum. This gave students a strong sense of connection to the project. All eight students who participated National Memory – Local Stories were in Year 12.

The Participants from Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury
Bishop Wordsworth’s is an all boys school in Salisbury, an area known for its military connections, so participating in a project that focused on the First World War was already extremely relevant.  However, when the students began to explore the objects in the museum, just metres away from the school's site, the experience inspired an even greater level of interest.  As participants read about the conditions the servicemen had to endure they discovered personal connections to the school.  They read diary extracts from Old Wordsworthians and then re-visiting the Chapel where they have weekly assemblies to read the list of names on the Roll of Honour.  The students were particularly interested in having access to objects that are not usually on display, and examining the more personal items that they could connect with. The nine participating students from Bishop Wordsworth’s School came from Year 11 and Year 13 and were all preparing for an Art qualification the following summer (GCSE/A-Level).

The Workshops at the Museum
The main collection resources for the workshops at The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum were two personal diaries from Sergeant F. Mundy and Corporal G.C. Couldrey.  As soldiers from Salisbury, the focus on their diaries emphasised the local dimension of the project.  The diary entries related to both combat and personal experiences.  The diarists’ comments and reflections included personal photographs taken by them during their time serving in Palestine.

Workshop participants also had access to and used many other objects from the Museum’s collection, and made use of these in their creative work.

The exhibition will run at our museum from Saturday 2nd August until Sunday 7th September inclusive. The artwork pictured here was created by a student at Avon Valley College, Durrington.

The work produced by the schools and youth groups who were taking can be seen at National Memory - Local Stories - National Memory – Local Stories