Guest Blog: Ruth McKew, Headland Design Director
Chroniclers is how someone described museum curators to me today. We tell and record stories about the objects in our collections.
Hi, I’m Ruth. I am part of the team from Headland Design, and we were delighted to be appointed to work with the curatorial team at The Harris to help develop and write text for the new museum. We work on projects of all shapes and sizes, designing new interpretation and exhibitions, developing Interpretive Plans and helping museums and historic sites find new ways to engage people with their heritage. At its heart our work is about storytelling, and helping people to connect with the heritage, whether it’s a collection of Roman coins, pottery made just down the road, items brought from far away places or beautiful dresses.
We have helped to develop an Interpretive Framework that sets out the key stories and themes so that we can see the story of the whole museum, not just each display. We have developed a bespoke set of text writing guidelines (or rules) and now we are ready to write text.
We begin with the idea that each object (or group of objects) could tell three stories. There’s a story about where it came from and where it was made. In some cases this is a local story, of somewhere familiar and close by, for others the object has travelled a long way collecting stories along the journey. Then there’s a more contextual story about how it links to other objects in the museum or elsewhere, sometimes the object is completely unique, or it might show a key stage in development or a change in fashion. The final story could be about the person who owned or used it. This is often my favourite. Sometimes the owner has left a mark, or imprint, a scuff through use and maybe their story is recorded along with the object. As curators we can rarely tell all the stories, we have to select the best story. Sometimes we don’t have enough information to tell one of the stories, or it might be told better with another object. A group of objects can be linked by their stories, which have to stand alone or together form part of a longer story.
This is an exciting stage in the project as we uncover and research more about the amazing objects within The Harris.
Harris Your Place
Harris Your Place is a £16million project set to restore and reimagine the Harris for 21st-century audiences as a cultural learning space. The aim of this project is to protect the building and the architecture for future generations whilst enhancing accessibility options and positioning the Harris as a community hub for Preston and Lancashire.
The capital project is more than simply preserving this much-loved building; the Harris wants to ensure that it remains a vibrant heart of the community. A place where people want to spend their time.