Museum stories: How Ceredigion Museum are keeping people connected

20/01/2021

As our crowdfunding campaign continues, we’re sharing stories from some of those museums we’ve already been able to help with our emergency funding.

Today Alice Briggs, assistant curator at Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth, tells us how they’ve been staying connected with local people during lockdown and beyond. The museum received funding from Art Fund to support their project ‘Human Threads’, which has helped members of the community to record their experiences of Covid-19 by contributing to a patchwork and digital quilt. The quilts will be shown at an upcoming exhibition at the museum.

By donating to #TogetherForMuseums, you’re helping many more museums across the UK make projects like these a reality. Thank you.

“We are very rural and have an ageing population. There is very poor internet access. We created our digital offer immediately [when lockdown began], but there was very much a sense that this wasn’t enough. Digital doesn’t cut it for our audiences because of where we are and who they are; it’s not possible to reach everyone.

The council were sending out food packages to the most vulnerable people, and there was a special wellbeing one that we managed to feed into. We put together a leaflet with information about the Human Threads project and reminiscence cards that we had nicely printed to encourage people to think about our collections and to interact with us.

We also put in a physical patch for them to send back as part of the Human Threads project, and they could draw or sew onto it if they wanted to. So we are having a physical quilt and also a digital quilt.

Contributors to the Human Threads quilt project

“We’ve had some really wonderful responses. Somebody created beautiful crocheted patches from wool from their farm. A gentleman wrote us a lockdown song and recorded it. Some carers created wonderful recorded interviews, talking about their own experiences – gentlemen whose wives went into care homes and they weren’t able to see them for months, a father who couldn’t bubble with his son because he was caring for an elderly relative. They are really emotional.

Our Human Threads project facilitator is working with groups whom we have struggled to engage before and who aren’t represented very well in the collection; she’s working with a Syrian refugee group and members of the Asian and Black communities. We really wanted to refocus our efforts to make sure that they feel we are representing them. That’s been a really important element for us.

We’ve had two or three responses that relate to Black Lives Matter. Someone sewed ‘I can’t breathe’ onto a face mask and then facts about black people being two times more likely to die of Covid, five times more likely to have force used on them by police... Another lady had been to a Black Lives Matter protest and created one in response to that.

While there are clearly a lot of digitally competent people, there are many more who don’t know where to start, so we’ve created ‘how to’ guides and encouraged young people to record their grandparents or parents to make it easier for them. In addition, I’m going through social media where I know, for example, that local choirs have gone online and are producing digital content, so we have a really broad picture of the community and what’s been happening through lockdown.

A contribution to the Human Threads quilt project

“We want the Human Threads exhibition to be really fabulous when we reopen. The museum itself is an Edwardian theatre space and a really fantastic building; people tend to go ‘wow’ when they walk in. It’s a unique opportunity for us as curators because we never get to use the whole space. Now we can take over and create this massive installation.

It will hopefully be quite impactful when people come in and see these quilts that are hanging from the balconies, interspersed with digital projections and soundbites, pieces that will be triggered by a sensor and stop people in their tracks. All 12 of the groups the facilitator is working with will be part of the exhibition, so hopefully that will draw in a lot of people and give that sense of pride in something they’ve produced.”

Explore Ceredigion Museum.

Thank you for supporting #TogetherForMuseums – and if you haven’t already donated, please do take a look at the rewards on offer and learn more about the campaign.

Your support will help museums respond to the challenges of Covid-19, and reimagine a brighter future.

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