There’s no such thing as a ‘lazy Sunday’ for me; I’ve always been one of those (weird) people that love to have a jam-packed schedule of things to do, places to be and people to see – so this last weekend has been as hectic as always with the Big Lunch event!
Quite inadvertently, I’ve become a bit of an office hermit over the past couple of weeks, having thrown myself into research for the project – I’ve barely moved from my desk! Although I absolutely love my new role, it’s always good to have a bit of a change of scene. So when I was asked to represent the museum and our Window on the World project at the Big Lunch event in Ellesmere Port, I jumped at the chance.
A key part of the project is to enhance the offer of the museum, by providing a range of new interactive activities and learning opportunities which are accessible and enjoyable to all. So where do we begin? Consulting with the public is a decent starting point – asking them their opinion of the museum as it is today will enable the project planners to design activities which will help to broaden the museum’s appeal.
The Big Lunch event offered us an unmissable opportunity to conduct a local public consultation. A stand was booked, a survey drawn up and I’d stuffed my tiny little hatchback full of hefty boxes full of museum leaflets, flyers, pop-ups, objects and not to mention a rather large Window on the World board - how I managed to squeeze everything in, I’ll never know!
Much to my delight, it was a gloriously sunny morning when I rolled up at the venue, accompanied by one of the project’s Activity Planners. We swiftly set up our stand and waited for visitors to arrive to get cracking with the surveys. As I gazed around the hall, I was struck by the amount of diverse volunteer organisations around us. It was hard to believe that they were all within the same area – it just goes to show what a wonderfully proactive community we have here in Ellesmere Port & Neston.
The gorgeous weather certainly brought out the crowds. Our stand looked great – the museum objects worked a treat to draw people in, and Carol and I were happily rushed of our feet all afternoon!
I found myself curious to discover what local people thought about the museum. It turned out we received a mixed bag of responses - some raved about it, praising the quality of the exhibition spaces, events and its picturesque setting. Others were a bit more critical – some claimed that ‘nothing new happens’ at the museum, and that there isn’t much to do for children to keep them occupied.
I must admit, I was a tad shocked by these negative claims. It seemed that many were totally unaware of the activities and events which we offer. I was especially stunned to hear comments about the museum’s lack of appeal to children! Our fantastic education team deliver exciting activities and workshops to young visitors. We also offer a range of craft-based sessions and fun events throughout the year, such as our up-and-coming Warriors and Washerwomen Living History Fair in July.
Nevertheless, amid some of the negative comments there was a clear silver lining - many showed a great interest in our new project and what it would bring to the museum. People were more than happy to scribble down their suggestions for what they’d like to see here in the future to make it more visit-worthy. Children’s activity days, re-enactments and behind the scenes tours were amongst the most popular, and many were keen to see working horse events and reminiscence days on the list of new features at the museum.
I feel that the Window on the World project will help to neatly fill a significant gap in the museum’s appeal to the public – these consultations are fundamental to the development of the project’s future exhibitions, activities and events. Knowing what the public want is a major part of the battle. If we can secure the next stage of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we can give our museum a new lease of life, offering exciting new experiences for the pleasure of our visitors - here’s hoping!
The National Waterways Museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of artefacts that tell the story of Britain’s canals and navigable rivers over the last 300 years. With sites at Ellesmere Port and Gloucester, the museum holds over 12,000 historic objects and 68 historic boats and is designated by the Arts Council England as of national importance. The National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port is also home to the Waterways Archive including over 100,000 papers, drawings photographs, plans and books relating to the waterways – a vital part of our national cultural heritage.
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