Back to University

Over the last four years, I have been working increasingly with universities on the development, delivery and evaluation of community heritage projects.

Two key contracts have emerged for me as a result: evaluation of the social outcomes of the University of Birmingham’s ‘Mingana MSS in the Community’ project, and development of the University of Worcester’s WW1 Home Front public engagement project, WW1 in the Vale.

It’s intriguing work – marrying the exacting demands of the experienced and confident academic with the enthusiasm but inexperience of, often self-taught, community researchers.  The key is to find the common points of interest and to build from them.  The confidence of both parties can be easily bruised, particularly when messages get mangled, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication as clear and direct as possible and to return to those common points and rebuild if necessary.

But oh! It’s distracting at times!

So often, I want so much to know more about the subject matter and get hands-on with the research, when in fact, my contracted role is more that of a mediator or coordinator.  It’s even harder for the evaluation jobs, where I need to remain professionally detached to an extent so that I can report on what occurs, rather than how I might feel about it, or whether I too would like to get stuck into the activity.

Anyway, after all this Uni talk, this summer, I suppose I got my academic break – I have now been appointed as a Sessional Lecturer for the University of Worcester’s Institute of Humanities & Creative Arts.

After years of working with adult learners in community and heritage settings – either providing volunteer/staff training, or leading workshops with community partners, and older people – working with undergraduates is proving to be fascinating, stimulating and very rewarding.

Once I got over the feeling of being, like, REALLY old (my cultural reference points fall on stony ground!), I find that their technical savvy and thirst for information is pushing my own teaching methods in new directions.  I am able to use a lot more digital material, largely because the teaching environment is set up to cope with it, and I find that the students are responsive to a wider range of active learning styles.  It’s good stuff and great fun.  I look forward to the next lecture!

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‘The First World War: Nursing’ A report from the front line of the Women’s History Network Midlands Region Conference

This year’s Women’s History Network Midlands Region Conference entitled ‘The First World War: Nursing’ took place at the University of Worcester (City Campus) on Saturday, 21 November 2015.

A group photograph showing Nurse Edith Cavell (seated centre) with a group of her multinational student nurses whom she trained in Brussels’. © IWM (Q 70204)

A group photograph showing Nurse Edith Cavell (seated centre) with a group of her multinational student nurses whom she trained in Brussels’. © IWM (Q 70204)

In combination with a wide and varied programme, we received a keynote address from Prof Christine E. Hallett, The University of Manchester: ‘Le Petit Paradis des Blessés: Nurses, Nursing and Internationalism on the Western Front (1915-1918)’.

Prof Christine E. Hallett, The University of Manchester speaking about ‘Le Petit Paradis des Blessés': Nurses, Nursing and Internationalism on the Western Front (1915-1918)

Prof Christine E. Hallett, The University of Manchester speaking about ‘Le Petit Paradis des Blessés’: Nurses, Nursing and Internationalism on the Western Front (1915-1918)

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The remainder of the morning was given to a series of papers reflecting on the subsequent political and literary representations of the execution of the English nurse, Edith Cavell, by the Germans in Belgium in 1915. The speakers were Professor Alison S. Fell, University of Leeds; Professor Jean Webb, University of Worcester and Steven Moralees of the Cavell Nurses’ Trust.

Three panels were held in the afternoon: V.A.D. [Voluntary Aid Detachment] Nurses, Nursing in Europe and Trauma, Death and Therapy. Details of the speakers and their papers can be found in this pdf: WHNConf-November2015-Final

It was an absolutely exhilarating day – roomfuls of Women’s history academics generously sharing their research with each other and supporting independent researchers like myself to find out more about the hidden stories of women’s work during the First World War.   Please forgive my indulgence in storing my tweets here – I wanted to set up a Storify, but find myself mysteriously locked out from paradise. Whilst I debate my social media manners with the app moderators, I’ve gathered the commentary from the day here. As you’ll gather from my tweets, I attended Panel 3: Trauma, Death and Therapy.

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Edith Cavell and her dog. After her death, 'Jack' was adopted by Princess Mary de Croy. He died in 1923, and his stuffed remains can be seen in the Florence Nightingale Museum, St Thomas' Hospital, London. (IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30083371)

Edith Cavell and her dog. After her death, ‘Jack’ was adopted by Princess Mary de Croy. He died in 1923, and his stuffed remains can be seen in the Florence Nightingale Museum, St Thomas’ Hospital, London. (IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30083371)

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Celebrate! £20,000 in HLF funding secured for the WW1 in the Vale project!

We’re on our way! I’ve had to be very quiet about this one, whilst it was in development, but I am now happy to report that Pershore WI and Pershore Heritage & History Group (alias the WW1 in the Vale team) are celebrating the award of £10,000 each from the Heritage Lottery Fund First World War: Then and Now programme.

Getting started! (From left to right) Back row: Professor Maggie Andrews, University of Worcester, Susanne Atkin, volunteer researcher, Audrey Whitehouse and Beth Milsom of Pershore WI Front row: Elspeth King, University of Worcester, Audrey Humberstone, Margaret Tacey and Jean Haynes from Pershore Heritage & History Society

Getting started! (From left to right)
Back row: Professor Maggie Andrews, University of Worcester, Susanne Atkin, volunteer researcher, Audrey Whitehouse and Beth Milsom of Pershore WI
Front row: Elspeth King, University of Worcester, Audrey Humberstone, Margaret Tacey and Jean Haynes from Pershore Heritage & History Society

It’s been a long journey and a lot of hard work all round since Maggie Andrews and I produced the first public consultation event back in October 2014 at the Almonry in Evesham, but this grant award means that we can now get cracking on our research and events programme to find out more about life in the Vale during World War One. 

Over the next year, each group will follow a particular theme:

Pershore WI members will celebrate the centenary of their branch, founded in November 1916 as one of the first Women’s Institutes in the county. They will uncover the lives of its original members, including Viscountess Deerhurst of Pirton, Mrs Beynon, wife of the manager of the Pomona Jam Factory, and the wives, daughters or servants of engineers, bricklayers, tradesmen and market gardeners in the area.

Pershore Heritage & History Society will be investigating ‘How the Pershore Plum Won the War’. The fruit and vegetables grown in the Vales of Evesham and Pershore were essential to the nation’s food production. Many local residents combined market gardening and fruit growing with other trades such as pub landlord or wheelwright.

The project team will be co-ordinated by Jenni Waugh Consulting Ltd (me!) and supported by Professor Maggie Andrews, students from the University of Worcester, the Voices of War and Peace World War One Engagement Centre, Pershore Library staff and Pershore Town Council,.  We will also work with artists, an oral historian and a film-maker to record our discoveries, and have a year’s worth of exciting events and activities planned.

We also plan to produce touring exhibitions, a WW1 Pershore Town Trail and films of Food Preservation Demonstrations. We will also host a number of craft activities for children in the local library and other public events.

A book based on our research, How the Pershore Plum Won the War, will be published by the History Press and available for sale in time for the Pershore Plum Festival in 2016.

For further information about World War One in the Vale or to get involved, follow the project blog or contact me directly.

New report published: MEDIEVAL ABBERLEY REVEALED

Researching and writing evaluation reports is fascinating and enjoyable part of my work.  It is a privilege to be able to follow project teams and volunteers as they deliver complex community activity and then to be able to reflect back to them the impact their work has had.

Excavating for Abberley Castle. An added bonus of evaluating the Medieval Abberley Revealed project!

Excavating for Abberley Castle. An added bonus of evaluating the Medieval Abberley Revealed project!

This week, I finished work on the evaluation report for MEDIEVAL ABBERLEY REVEALED, an HLF-funded Medieval Abberley Revealed community archaeology project which took place over 12 months, and built upon the enthusiasm for local history sparked by the popular Abberley Lives 20th century history project of 2012-2013.

Participation levels on this project were really high, with over 13% of the village either volunteering or attending an event.  The social and well-being outcomes were very strong – even long-time residents expressed how much they had enjoyed meeting new neighbours and volunteering with friends.

The activities seemed to generate a genuine sense of occasion, drawing volunteers aged from 9 to 90 years.  As a local resident and member of the AHPS said later:

‘We joined Abberley Hills Preservation Society but it went dormant for a while.  This activity has revived it all and we have met a lot of people we had never met before. It’s brought us together to fight against [the proposed] houses.  I would absolutely do it again.’

This was the first project evaluation where I was able to use multi-media sources to provide evidence of activity.  Several of the participants have very active social media feeds, so I was able to collate real-time responses during activity and save them using Storify.  I also trained project volunteers to be able to blog so that they could encourage each other to share their reflections online via the Abberley Lives website.

Furthermore, with the advice and assistance of Clear Picture Productions, I have also recorded and edited my first short films for the project website that capture the excitement and curiosity generated during live events.

Thanks very much to Abberley Hills Preservation Society for hiring me to do this lovely piece of work, and for giving me the chance to explore new means of gathering evidence.

Download the report: Medieval Abberley Revealed evaluation

Thanks for helping us to #bringitbackforBrum

DSCN5972crop It’s time to ease your suspense, following my last post, asking for your votes.

Yes!  Thank you all you wonderful peeps.  As a result of your support and enthusiasm, Birmingham Conservation Trust won the Heritage Angel, Historic England and Telegraph People’s Favourite award for our restoration of the Newman Brothers Coffin Works.

It’s a long title, but a very worthwhile prize that means a great deal to all of us, as you can see from the short film I made of the acceptance speeches made by Simon Buteux and Elizabeth Perkins, respectively our current and former Directors, who have worked to hard to see the restoration project succeed.

The Heritage Angel Awards are organised by Historic England and sponsored by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.  As a result, Sir Andrew’s Foundation paid for 12 of the BCT team to attend the ceremony in the Palace Theatre, London, on 7 September 2015.

Consequently, as well as bringing along the BCT staff, and Jane Arthur, chair of the BCT Board, Simon was able to invite the project manager, Kate Dickson, project architect, Ed Kepczyk, another trustee, (me!), and 3 volunteers: David, Pam and Owen.

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The ceremony provided a great opportunity to see the high standard of exciting restoration work taking place around the country.  After the show, we mingled with the other nominees at a reception, where we snaffled as many mini-cones of fish & chips as we could, whilst comparing notes and sharing tales of restoration highs and lows.
Two days later, an article about our success appeared in the Daily Telegraph – considering he was interviewing 12 very over-excited people, the journalist did a remarkably accurate job!

We are very grateful to you, our friends and supporters, as well as those of Heritage England and the readers of the Telegraph, for voting so strongly in our favour.  Please do come and visit us now so that you can see the award you helped us to win!

VOTE COFFIN WORKS for the Heritage Angel Award and #BringitbackforBrum

Please VOTE COFFIN WORKS for the Heritage Angel Award 2015

Please VOTE COFFIN WORKS for the Heritage Angel Award 2015

As a proud trustee of Birmingham Conservation Trust, I am delighted to report that we have been nominated for one of Historic England’s Angel Awards, specifically the Best Rescue of an Industrial Building Award, for our restoration of the glorious Newman Brothers at the Coffin Works.
However, there is another Heritage Angel award, which we need your help to win: the 2015 Historic England followers’ & Telegraph readers’ Favourite Award will be presented to the project that receives the most public votes.
So please, vote for us by following this link*:
http://historicengland.org.uk/news-and-features/angel-awards/shortlist-2015/

bring-it-back-650x369A little bit about our restoration of the Coffin Works

15 years of hard work, fundraising and a £2m refurbishment paid off when we re-opened the factory in October 2014. The semi-derelict grade II* listed industrial building now has a very bright and sustainable future as both a highly-rated ‘time-capsule’ museum, an events venue, and eight commercial units, which are all fully let!
BCT, along with our wonderful team of volunteers, have given the factory a new lease of life and preserved a unique and special slice of Birmingham’s history for the city. Just check out our TripAdvisor Reviews to see how special the museum is!

For more information about the work of Birmingham Conservation Trust, click here.

To visit the Coffin Works for yourself, click here.

*Just for information…
When you follow the ‘vote’ link you are taken to a SurveyMonkey page where you are asked to provide your name, email and telephone number and are asked whether you are ‘a) A Historic England follower b) A Telegraph reader (the Telegraph is one of the award sponsors) c) Both’. Being a ‘follower’ of Historic England means anybody with an interest in their work – i.e. anybody can vote.

You can opt out of being contacted by Historic England simply by not ticking the relevant boxes about this. Although, why not follow them on Twitter @HistoricEngland or on Facebook.com/HistoricEngland or subscribe to their newsletter and find out more about the great work that they do.

For more about the Heritage Angel Awards, follow this link

More stones…

Following the fun Workshop on Newspapers and Stone, I have been commissioned to do a lovely bit of archive research for the Herefordshire & Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust.
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St Nicholas, The Cross, Worcester

If you come along to the Archive Searchroom in the Hive on alternate Wednesday afternoons between now and the end of the year, you will find me, up to my eyes in builders’ specifications, parish records, old copies of The Builder and any other useful source that I can get my hands on…

The main focus of Trust’s work at the moment is A Thousand Years of Building with Stone, an enormous research project that now has its own brand new, freely searchable website and a growing database of more than 3000 buildings and quarries

As part of the team, I am helping to record, catalogue and untangle the history of stone use in heritage buildings across Herefordshire and Worcestershire.  We are trying to identify not only the stone from which some of our most significant buildings are constructed, but also, the quarry it came from.  Yes!  We are nothing if not ambitious!!!

It’s great to get back into the archives again and to do some focussed research.  I have been finding some fabulous stuff – too much to post here.

My thorniest problem at the moment is to identify the stone from which the ‘new’ church of St Nicholas was built in 1730. Worcester people will know the church, as it stands on The Cross and is now a Slug & Lettuce bar.  I have fond memories of this church – when I was small they used to put a nativity tableau on the steps at Christmas time.  If you put a coin in the tin, it lit up and played a carol.  I leave it to you to work out how long ago that was…

So I am slowly working through box after box of churchwardens’ accounts, trying not to get distracted by the fascinating invoices for school materials in the 1860s, or descriptions of the workhouse prior to 1836…  If anyone has a clue, do let me know

Helping the Earth Heritage Trust to do this are a wonderful and ever expanding group of dedicated volunteers. If you are interested in learning new skills and discovering more about your local area read more or contact the EHT team.

The Workshop on Newspapers & Stone

Bit of an unusual request this one, and no, it is not the academic prequel to GRR Martin’s Song of Ice & Fire sequence.

Instead, it’s an interesting commission from the Earth Heritage Trust, whose volunteers are busy researching sources for A Thousand Years of Building with Stone.  Given the tremendous number of documentary sources out there, my workshop will focus on how to structure database searches and how to make the best use of any basic clues to lead you to the answers.

So far, one of the best clues to use are the foundation stones laid with great enthusiasm by our forebears – where there’s a stone, there’s a news article, and behind that article can be a wealth of information concerning architect, building contractors, design purpose and nature of stone used.  Take, for example, Worcester’s own City Library:

Worcester Library collage_web

Searches on INFOTRAC News Vault (available for free to Worcestershire Libraries members) for the Worcester Library opening event were no use, as it turns out that when the building was erected it was known entirely as the Victoria Institute.  Therefore, by changing the search parameters to use the known data (‘Worcester’, ‘Lygon’ and a restricted date search), I was able to find both the report of the Opening Ceremony in the Times Newspaper Archive, and a series of commemorative articles about the event in the Worcester Journal (using the British Newspaper Archive).  For the Times article, see SUCCESSFUL SEARCH_Worcs Victoria Inst 1896-10-01.

There are a large number of newspaper and periodical resources available online, some for free and others which charge a fee.  This is where library membership comes up trumps as most county services subscribe to at least one of these archives.  For details, look for your library service’s 24 Hour Library or e-Resources page.  In Worcestershire, library members who visit the Hive can also access a range of additional academic journals through the University subscriptions service including the British & Irish Archaeological Bibliography and JStor.

For a quick overview of online news & periodical resources see this guide from the National Archives: TNA_Guide to newspapers_2014-10-20

For a guide to Herefordshire Libraries e-Resources see: e-resources_Herefordshire Libraries 2014-10-20

For a guide to Worcestershire Libraries e-Resources, including those at the Hive, see: eResources_Worcs Libraries 2014-10-20 and e-resources_The Hive 2014-10-20

For an introduction to using the British Newspaper Archive, see: Intro to British Newspaper Archive

Learning from a marvellous regiment of women (or, What I Did Last Weekend)

There is something utterly exhilarating about attending a conference for, about and run predominantly by women and the Women’s History Network‘s annual conference, Home Fronts: Gender, War & Conflict, was no exception.

It took place in the former Worcester Royal Infirmary, presided over in its time by a succession of innovative Matrons, and concluded in the grounds of the former Stanbrook Abbey, built in 1871 as home for an enclosed order of Benedictine nuns, founders of the one of the oldest private presses in England.

As a member of the judging panel for the WHN Community History Prize, sponsored by the History Press, it was a privilege to congratulate the winners, St Ives Archives, for their fantastic research into the women textile workers of the town.  The judging process was a tricky job since the panel were presented with such a high calibre of community-focussed research projects carried out by and about women.  It was exciting to find such enthusiasm for uncovering the hidden stories of women’s experience, led in many cases by first-time researchers, guided or supported by professionals.  The creativity and assurance with which their findings were presented bodes well for the continued promulgation of contributions to the field.

Although the focus lay on Home Fronts of the C20th, there were a number of papers relating to earlier history that demonstrated the universality of key themes.  One such was a thread concerning the forms of relief and support for wives and families surviving during their husbands’ time away at the front.  Susan Mary Grant led, in the first keynote, with her examination of the Dislocations of the Home Front for Southern women during the American Civil War, when the Front was literally camped in some of these women’s front yards.

The next day, John Black’s paper on the influence of the Women Volunteers in the Army Pay Office at Woolwich during 1914 in distributing separation allowance and outdoor relief, demonstrated that behind every faceless administrative system, there are people who work to ensure that it is as humane as possible.  This thread was picked up in Paul Huddie’s investigation into Victims or Survivors: army wives in Ireland during the Crimean War.  Curious as to why so many Irish wives were not claiming the relief payments to which they were entitled from the Royal Patriotic Fund, Huddie uncovered evidence that some feared to apply lest their Catholic children were whisked away to be converted by the Anglican administration (not the case, protested the Bishop in the press), or were indeed making their own way by taking work in service or as shirt-makers in the army towns.

Appropriately for the location and the date (the anniversary of the Battle of Worcester falls on 3 September),  some papers examined women’s experience during the English Civil Wars.  A standout for me was Talya Housman’s paper Two English Scripts of Ravishment: Divisions between Royalist and Parliamentarian Utilisation of Rape, which focussed on the C17th legal definition of ‘ravishment’:  to seize (property) by violence.  In the Royalist scripts examined by Talya, the consent of the woman was of lesser importance than the representation of rape as theft of property from a man: a husband or father.  To the Parliamentarians, however, the scripts act as a metaphor for the polis: an emerging idea of an offence against the person, without their consent. So, just as a woman is sexually assaulted against her will, so, the Parliamentarian script reads, King Charles ruled without the consent of the people and stole their freedom of action.  The offence is still viewed through the filter of male experience, but at least a step closer to understanding that a woman might not be a mere chattel after all…

I could go on – with apologies to those whose papers I have travestied in an attempt to summarise them.  There were so many elements to take in.  I was thrilled to chair Deborah Thom’s outstanding keynote on how the Imperial War Museum has presented the Public History of Women and War since its establishment in 1917; whilst conversations over coffee cups  about Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the protocols of grief in time of war, the visual rhetoric of the women’s recruiting poster and the hierarchies of women’s work will keep me thinking for a long while yet.  I would like to say many thanks to the Women’s History Network for my bursary – I hope that the work I produce as a result will prove it was well worth the investment!

(Re)Drafting the elevator pitch

savoy liftThis morning, half way through a conversation with a print salesman about my order of training booklets, I was hit broadside by The Question.

‘So what do you do?’

Wah! Caught unawares, my careful ‘elevator pitch’, the succinct description of my key professional motivations, actions and finer features, completely deserted me.  I mumbled something about ‘engaging’, ‘increasing communication’ and generally sharing the cultural heritage joy.

Hmmm.

After a pause, the salesman said ‘well, I am sure that it very useful to people in your field’.  Ouch, damned, and not even with faint praise.

It made me reflect on how easily we forget how we sound to the people we work alongside but who don’t know us or what we do. And on how, if I really am working to help museums and heritage organisations to relate better to their audiences, I need to make sure that non-sector colleagues, friends and family understand that too.

My elevator pitch has the potential not only to get me work, but also to introduce the cultural organisations I work with to people who previously hadn’t heard of them.  After all, every conversation can be a doorway to another. But by being vague or unclear or by using too much jargon, what we say can slam that conversational door tight shut.

Later this afternoon, quite unprompted, a Facebook friend asked me the same question. So I decided to re-draft my elevator pitch…

There’s all sorts of advice about this online, some of it incomprehensible or frankly terrifying, but I like this one from BizGym, which helps you make it sound like a natural sentence rather than a ferocious tongue-twister.

ElevatorPitch

So, gentle reader, here goes:

Hi!  I’m Jenni Waugh, from Jenni Waugh Consulting.
My company helps museums to communicate better and to more people about the great stuff they do through digital and personal development activity that is affordable and tailored to suit their needs.

Better? I think so.

But not yet perfect.  As ever, I remain a work in progress…

How’s your elevator pitch coming along?