This week, the team quite literally ‘went to town’ on the Window on the World project. We grabbed a unique opportunity to have our very own museum display and carry out some more of those all-important public consultations in Ellesmere Port’s bustling town centre. And what an interesting afternoon it turned out to be…
We had a successful day conducting consultations for the project with local people at the Big Lunch event - the day was suitably chaotic, the crowds enabled us to get a good number of surveys completed. Still, there was a long way to go before we hit our target. So we decided to create our own golden opportunity to do a public consultation; we organised to set up a stand for the museum in the town’s Civic Square, allowing us to spend an afternoon liaising with the locals about the project.
We arrived at the town square full of enthusiasm. We carted the displays over to the square and set up our colourful display, garnished with museum objects, children’s dressing up clothes and some eye-catching promotional boards.
Unfortunately, our cheery smiles started to fade when we realised that a rogue gust of wind had blown the popups out of place and knocked over our bulky Window on the World board (apologies to the poor girls sitting nearby!) Still, after a speedy reshuffle of the displays and a touch of reinforcement added to the pesky pop-ups, our optimism was restored.
We were met with another challenge when we pulled out the surveys and looked for people to interview. It soon became apparent that a range of sneaky techniques were being used by passers-by to dodge our attention – some talked loudly with their mobiles stuck to their ears, others neglected to look our way as they strolled past, and many promptly changed direction having caught a glimpse of us with our clipboards.
Needless to say, this was going to be no easy task!
To add to an already tricky situation, I heard a gang of teens nearby bellowing out some rather offensive comments about the museum (perhaps a tad too explicit to mention on this blog!). If they’d bothered to approach us properly, we would’ve happily welcomed their negative claims and gained some very interesting feedback for our project (and also bumped up our survey count tenfold as a bonus!). Sigh…
Thankfully, things soon started to look up. The heavy winds dropped. Blue skies and glints of sunlight peered through the cracks in the clouds. It seemed the change in weather triggered a subsequent shift in people’s moods, as many curiously flocked to our stand. We met some genuinely lovely people who were more than happy to help us out. We even managed to scoop up a couple of contacts for our new Twentieth Century Voices oral history project. Result!
With the town centre being merely a stone’s throw away from Ellesmere Port’s Academy, swarms of students flooded the square at 3:30pm – an opportunity for us to bag some young perspectives!
After a brief moment of terror, (I narrowly escaped being ran over by a pack of pupils on bikes, cycling ferociously through the town centre!), the team made some serious progress with the survey count. We managed to accost a fair few students as they ran animatedly across the square towards the shops. It was rather refreshing to hear their candid views.
When asked about the museum and Window on the World, many offered helpful suggestions about what we could do to make it more appealing to them. Art and photography workshops and music events ranked high on the list of ideas – we certainly gained some valuable insights into what would encourage those often dubbed ‘hard-to-reach’ youngsters to pay a visit to the museum.
Despite a somewhat turbulent start, our afternoon turned out to be a real success! We managed to chat to all different kinds of people, of all ages about the museum and our plans to spruce it up with Window on the World. Hopefully we’ve also created a bigger awareness of the project amongst the local public.
A key aim of Window on the World is to encourage more people to visit the museum and engage with their waterways heritage. We want to provide an array of new exciting experiences for all to enjoy at the museum – the best way to develop this is to carry out as many consultations as we can with everybody and anybody who is willing to contribute.
Many thanks to all who stopped by our stand and gave their time to complete a survey with us that afternoon!
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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