The Outreach team at UCL Special Collections have been working hard on a new community collaboration with Newham Heritage Month – The New Curators Project. This project set out to provide 10 young people from East London the chance to develop the skills and experience needed to start a career in the cultural heritage sector. Successful applicants would receive a bursary, training from industry experts and they would create an exhibition and online event for a real-life audience as part of Newham Heritage Month in May 2021.
With funding from Foundation for Future London and UCL Culture, we ran two months of workshop featuring visiting facilitators (who delivered sessions on public history research, curatorship, digital communications and using archivers in historical research). We also worked with the cohort to devise an exhibition and online talk that used resources from (among others) Newham’s archive, UCL Special Collections and personal photography from participants. It was a whirlwind of activity, all leading to Newham Heritage Month programme this May.
While we felt confident that the partnership with Newham Heritage Month would be a hugely valuable one, and we knew the visiting facilitators would provide insightful, exciting presentations, we could not have anticipated how well the participants would work together or how good-natured and multi-talented a group they would be. It has been a pleasure to deliver.
This week, we were delighted to see the exhibition arrive at Stratford Library:
The exhibition will spend the rest of May travelling to eight other public libraries in Newham, and the group will be putting on a free public talk (online) on 28th May.
This is just the beginning for The New Curators Project, as we intend to run it annually. In time, we hope to see a growing alumni of past participants finding careers in the cultural heritage sector, and perhaps delivering content on future iterations of this project!
Contributing towards providing accessible pathways into the cultural heritage sector and demystifying roles within the field can sometimes seem an insurmountable task, especially when also trying to address the current lack of diversity in the sector. However, this is a practical step that will now take pride of place in our Outreach programme at UCL Special Collections. At the same time, the project is an opportunity to strengthen a valuable community partnership with Newham Heritage Month and Newham’s public libraries.