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.


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*:

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 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.

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.


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.


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?

New websites: Museum of Carpet and Anything But Ordinary

Check out these two new websites: Logo blue strap[1]wendy banner 960x125 copyHappy to announce that I’m just finishing up work on two more new websites for clients. As usual I have used WordPress to create them, because it is a cheap/free, easy-to-use application with loads of friendly, accessible online support.  Clients can then carry on managing their own websites without having to pay lots for hosting and maintenance. For the first time, however, I have used to create Anything But Ordinary for costume services and bespoke tailoring. is the downloadable, customisable version of the software.  Working with an associate who supplied all of the IT server know-how, we went on a crash course to learn all the things that provides as part of the template.  It was a bumpy journey at times, but we think we have cracked it now – see what you think. The best part of the new site was learning how to create good quality picture galleries so that I could show off the marvellous costumes and clothes that Wendy makes for her clients.  I shall now be revisiting the Top Drawer Costume website to update their image galleries with this in mind. The Museum of Carpet website has been an adventure of a completely different kind.  The Museum opened in Kidderminster in late 2012.  Last summer the Carpet Museum Trust commissioned me to refresh their web presence, train their staff and volunteers to blog and to provide advice on building their social media profile. Since then, I have worked with the team to create a website that reflects the full range of activities now on offer in this lively museum.  It now has a lively blog – all of the staff and now 4 volunteers have been trained to contribute articles, ensuring that readers read about a range of voices and interests. The facebook and twitter feed keep visitors up to date and seem to be particularly popular with family groups.  The museum even has its own Soundcloud album.  As a result, visitor numbers are climbing and the website is currently averaging 130 visits a day.  The next step will be to add the archive catalogue to the site so that researchers from all over the world will be able to see what’s in the collections. Both projects have taught me a great deal about working directly with clients to create websites that suit both them, and their own customers and visitors.  I look forward to the next!

My new qualification: CIPD Level 3 Learning & Development

It’s finally arrived!  After 9 months of hard work last year and a lot of new experiences and ideas, I have just received news that I have attained Level 3 Accreditation in Learning & Development Practice from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.

The certificate arrived in the post last week and, as I don’t really have a public office wall upon which to hang my new certificate, I thought I would share the news with you via my blog.

My certificate!

My certificate!

The part-time course was offered by DPG and took place in Birmingham. Over the nine months we covered the following elements:

  • Developing coaching skills for the workplace
  • Delivering learning & development activities
  • Evaluating learning & development activities
  • Understanding organisations and the role of learning & development
  • Undertaking a Learning Needs Analysis
  • Preparing & designing learning & development activities
  • Recording, analysing and using learning & development information
  • Developing yourself as an effective learning & development practitioner

My associates in the class came from a fascinating range of business backgrounds – a kind of United Nations of the workforce. It is easy to forget how different working cultures can be.  Having worked for many years in the public and heritage sectors, I found it very refreshing and challenging to hear from colleagues in private industry, commerce and professional HR.

In particular, I found their arguments around evaluating value for money and calculating the return on investment of learning in the workplace to be both terrifying (who knew you could do that?!) and invigorating (you can do that! Excellent!).

DPG classmates learning the art of effective poster making during our Demo Sessions Day

DPG classmates learning the art of effective poster making during our Demo Sessions Day

We concluded the course in the ninth month by pairing up to present short L&D sessions to each other, to demonstrate what we had learned and to teach each other new ideas.  The climax of our work, these sessions were enormous fun and nerve-wracking at the same time.  I have never spent so long planning a 25 minute session!  On the day however, the delivery of the sessions was  warm and reassuring – we wanted each other to succeed and although we had all learned the same techniques, we played the game, opened our minds and learned a lot.

I know the experience has already improved my own practice.  In the middle of delivering 2 sessions on Community Archives Management, I learned new Brain-Friendly Learning techniques which made the second session much more interactive and engaging.  How do I know that?  I remembered to ask for evaluation feedback and used assessment and monitoring methods learned on the course.

I look forward to continuing to apply and develop what I have learned on the CIPD course and promise to post updates here.



Because you’re worth it!

heritagetourismhlfThe updated Economic Impact Toolkit: West Mids DIY version is here

In a time of financial uncertainty and the ‘downgrading’ of the value of culture, we all need to be able to say with certainty why we are ‘worth it’.

West Midlands Museum Development Officers (WMids MDOs) led the first region-wide survey in 2012 and commissioned me to crunch up the data and see how we had all done.

18 museums replied and demonstrated that in 2011-2012, they contributed over £59 million to the tourism economy. Over Christmas this year WMids MDOs did a quick numbers version, 88 sites responded and showed that museum contribute over £208 millions to the economy in 2012-2013!

Now AIM (Association of Independent Museums) has updated their formulae using government GreenBook statistics.  The WMids MDOs have commissioned me to translate the revised formulae for the West Mids into the attached spreadsheets so that all you need to do is put in the raw numbers, letting Excel do the rest!

With just 4 sets of numbers you will be able to calculate your  impact both regionally and in your local area on:

  • local tourism income
  • local employment figures
  • the economic impact of your expenditure on goods  services in the local area
  • the value of the effort contributed by your volunteers

You are free to use these spreadsheets at ANY time, for your own use…. 

However, as a BIG FAVOUR, I would ask that as many of you as possible complete the relevant spreadsheet by April 18th and send it to back to me.  I shall be collating it all in order to create printed pieces of advocacy for the region and each county …don’t let your impact be left out .

The spreadsheet should be self explanatory, please try to fill in all sheets, save it and send it it me by email.  It has been designed with museums in mind, but there is no real reason why archive or built heritage organisations should not use it.

If you are a large museum, with 50,000  visitors per annum, please use this worksheet: CALCULATE YOUR IMPACT_LARGE museums toolkit_2014_FINAL

If you are a small or medium size museum, with fewer than 49,999 visitors per annum, please use this worksheet: CALCULATE YOUR IMPACT_SMALL-MEDIUM museums toolkit_2014_FINAL

I know this will be a really valuable tool for you all – if you have any queries please contact me.

Off to the Museums Association Conference 2013

liverpoolRather a last minute decision, but I am heading up to the MA conference on Monday night.  I do love the buzz of conference season, the feeling that change is so immediate that you can taste it in the air.  The last few years, I haven’t been able to head along because I have had other work on, but this year, I still have work on, but I thought ‘COME ON!!! Where’s your sense of adventure?’

I’ll be hanging out in the exhibition hall – always the best place to gather the gossip and find out how the inevitable to and fro of the sector is working this year.  Last time I was at the MA conference, in 2008, it was also in Liverpool, and it was not a good year – all the regional MLAs were being closed down and there was a tired and frantic feeling about the place.

This year, the cuts are still biting and I am almost afraid to ask old friends how their jobs are going, just in case they have.  Still, there is a definite lift to the mood.  Now that the Arts Council have stepped in as a lead organisation for funding the sector, there is a bit more hope about the place.  New museums trusts have been formed over the last 5 years, and the staff who remain are tougher and more resilient.  Fortunately, we have a long tradition of trying to get by on very little, which helps (not a lot, but it helps).

So, I am looking forward to meeting old colleagues, forming new relationships and generally sniffing the air.  Hope to see some of you there.