Working together to a city's story
Have you visited the Picturing The Past exhibition yet? It’s a special collaboration between The Museum of Norwich, Let’s Talk and Picture Norfolk - and is well worth a look, as Angi Kennedy reports.
Every picture tells a story - but, over the course of time and lost memories, that story can slip away, and all that we are left with is an image of an unknown person, people or place from the past.
How many of us have one such picture among old photos passed down the through the family? With no names or details noted on the back - and no-one left who remembers - it becomes a mystery.
That’s where the Picturing The Past exhibition at The Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell, in conjuction with Let’s Talk and Picture Norfolk, comes in. The exhibition aims to show that there are plenty of clues in photos to help you unravel their story.
The exhibition features some wonderful mystery photos from the Archant archives at Let’s Talk’s Norwich office, and a super collection from a Norwich family, the Mitchells, which was given to Picture Norfolk, the online collection run by Norfolk Library and Information Service.
It is on display now until Saturday, February 16, 2019, and is the perfect reason to visit - or revisit - the museum in Bridewell Alley.
Jenny Caynes is curator of community history at the museum and developed the exhibition. She explains: “This exhibition is a very good microcosm of what the museum is about - the stories of ordinary working people. Without people talking to other people about their lives, the collections we have are contextless.
“I would really hope that out of this people might think, for instance, ‘I will talk to Mum about when she was working in Norwich,’ or ‘I’ll ask Dad about those people in the old photos with him when he was a boy’ - because that is so important both for us as people and as social historians.”
The Bridewell has been a museum since 1925, and from 2009 to 2012 it underwent a major redevelopment. Jenny was project officer for the £1.4m scheme and says: “It was a trades and industry museum, and when we received the Heritage Lottery funding to redevelop it we did a lot of public consultation and one of the findings that came out of the consultation was that people wanted to know about setting those trades and industries in the wider context of Norwich - such as why the city had its once flourishing shoe trade. So we changed the focus to ‘The Story of Norwich’, telling the story of the city from medieval times to modern day.”
The redevelopment also saw the museum become fully accessible for visitors, with a wheelchair lift, audio, written and sensory displays, as well as a wide range of fascinating exhibits and changing exhibitions.
“Many people will have their own very personal connection to the things they see here, through their own story of life and work in Norwich,” says Jenny. “So often we hear people saying as they are leaving ‘I really didn’t realise there was so much to see . . .’”
Get along to the Picturing The Past exhibition and enjoy the rest of The Museum of Norwich too.
Curator Jenny Caynes at The Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell.
The museum is a great place to pass the stories of Norwich on to the next generation. Photo: Andi Sapey.
Discover the story of Norwich’s hat trade. Photo: Andi Sapey.