Fahima Begum :  A view of a West Indian on British Life

There were a good number of West Indians who had volunteered to do war work during both the World wars. They came from all parts of the Caribbean, all walks of life, all political persuasions and all ethnic backgrounds.

During my research on the topic of British Empire and the colonies, I came across this text which highlighted how one person felt during the process of settling into their mother country which they had held in great esteem.The text gives an idea of perhaps the unfair treatment some West Indians received when they moved into England.

The text is from the book, Caribbean Wars Untold : A Salute to the British West Indies by Humphrey Metzgen (Author ) and John Graham (Author).

In the book the authors tell the story of the Caribbean during nearly five centuries of warfare from the time of Columbus to the present decade; of how West Indians consistently rallied to Britain’s side in its many years of peril, volunteered for service in its armed forces and for work in its wartime factories and forests. It also explores the consequences of social, political and economic of the world wars on both the British West Indies and the United Kingdom - extract taken from the ‘Book Description’ on Amazon.

Quote from Connie Marks who served in the British Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in Kingston during Second World War.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Caribbean-Wars-Untold-Salute-British/dp/9766402035

This is a fascinating video I discovered on British Pathe that gives an insight into Banana harvesting in Jamaica, West Indies. The West Indies exports more than 60,000 tonnes of Bananas to the UK and Europe. A journey of over 4,000 miles. 

Although this video is dated 1957, it is a great source of visual information that I used in my workshop based on the British Empire and how the colonies supported Britain during WW1 and WW2.One way in which some of the colonies such as India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand helped Britain was providing resources like wool, silk, cotton, spices, rice, oil, fruits as well as many other things.

Fahima Begum is Trainee on Cultural Co-operations Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme. SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

www.britishpathe.com/

Fahima Begum: A section from the Map of the World, The Daily Telegraph, dated around 1912.

The image is a close up of Africa and India from around 1912-14.

The red markings point to the areas that Allies had taken over or occupied, this would have been during the First World War. In one part of the map there is a red mark pointing to ’East Africa taken over by Allies on Dec 1st 1914’ and also on another indicates  ’Basra occupied by British Nov 21st 1914’.

It may give us an idea of how the past could have played a part in the ongoing modern day conflicts.

The map was a helpful source of information for a workshop that I organised in exploring how WW1 & WW2 affected or changed the British Colonies. It is visually fascinating to see how some of the countries appeared during the rule of the British Empire and how much has changed over the years.

Fahima Begum is a trainee on Cultural Co-operations Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme. SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Fahima Begum: The Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Photo above: West Indian ratings of the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve operating a depth charge thrower, September 1944, Second World War.
What did the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (TRNVR) do?
During World War 1,16,000 men served from the West Indies. 
There was a greater impact in the Caribbean during World War 2.
The TRNVR placed unknown number of men throughout the Caribbean to work on merchant vessels, mine sweepers and other such craft.
Like their predecessors; they joined The West Indian Local defence forces, such as the Barbados Volunteer Force, The Jamaica Volunteer Training Corps, The British Guiana Defence Force and the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
Fahima Begum is a Trainee on Cultural Co-operations Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme. SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
http://www.iwmprints.org.uk/

Fahima Begum: The Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

Photo above: West Indian ratings of the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve operating a depth charge thrower, September 1944, Second World War.

What did the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (TRNVR) do?

During World War 1,16,000 men served from the West Indies. 

There was a greater impact in the Caribbean during World War 2.

The TRNVR placed unknown number of men throughout the Caribbean to work on merchant vessels, mine sweepers and other such craft.

Like their predecessors; they joined The West Indian Local defence forces, such as the Barbados Volunteer Force, The Jamaica Volunteer Training Corps, The British Guiana Defence Force and the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Fahima Begum is a Trainee on Cultural Co-operations Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme. SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

http://www.iwmprints.org.uk/

Fahima Begum : British Empire

During World War Two, forces from the British Empire, were involved in all the major theatres of war, as well as serving on their own and on the British home fronts.

As well as providing men and women for the war effort, the Empire supplied raw materials and goods to Britain.

The posters above tell us the kind of resources India and Canada  produced.

Fahima Begum is a trainee on Cultural Co-operations Strengthening Our Common Life programme. SOCL is funded through the nationwide skills for the future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

 

Wallace & Gromit from the drawing board, an exciting new exhibition opening in M Shed, Bristol from 24 May - 7 September 2014.

It will explore the creative talent behind Wallace and Gromit on their 25th anniversary of their first ever film release. The must see exhibition has been especially created for M Shed by Aardman Animations and Cod Steaks - the company behind many of the Aardman sets that can be seen on the screen. Visitors will have the opportunity create their own stories inspired by Wallace and Gromit’s world in the ‘Get Creative’ event. All ages are welcome to take part in this event. Every Thursday 10am - 12pm. Free with Exhibition entry.

There will be a discussion about contemporary storytelling in the session, 'Cracking Stories' with Paul Kewley (Executive Producer, Aardman Features), children’s author Rachel Carter and Richard Headon, Director, Desperate Men). Chaired by author and broadcaster Sarah LeFanu. Tue 3 June, 6-7.30pm. Free. Booking required.

Also another fun activity which children and adults can participate in is the workshop ‘Characters from clay with Aardman’ this is were they can make their own favourite character - Gromit, Shaun the Sheep or Morph with assistance from Aardman’s expert model makers. 

Tue 12 & Tue 26th Aug, 10am, 12pm and 2pm (1 hour workshop) Suitable for age 4+ £3 child/£5 adult. Booking essential.

All information has been provided from the advertising leaflet for the Wallace & Gromit from the drawing board  exhibition. 

For more information visit: http://mshed.org/whats-on/

Fahima Begum is a Trainee on Cultural Co-operations Strengthening Our Common Life programme (SOCL). SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Fahima Begum: Brunel’s ss Great Britain

During my first week at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, I was given the opportunity to visit the ss Great Britain in Bristol. On my journey I saw some of the iconic landmarks of Bristol including the Clifton Suspension Bridge http://www.cliftonbridge.org.uk/ which was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1831, the old the Cabot Tower (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabot_Tower,_Bristol ) which is a 105ft tower built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s well-known voyage from Bristol and the continent of North America four hundred years earlier. There was also the St Mary Redcliffe Church http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary_Redcliffe located in Central Bristol.

The SS Great Britain is a Victorian ship and one of the many great creations of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It is located in the Great Western Dockyard in Bristol. The ship was launched in 1843, and was called ”the greatest experiment since the Creation”.

What makes the SS Great Britain great?

  • •The vast iron hull made the ship the biggest, strongest ship ever built at that time.
  • •Brunel used the very latest invention: a steam powered propeller instead of a wooden one.
  • She had a 1,000 horse-power engine, and could carry enough fuel to power her to America.
  • By using these 3 important elements, Brunel created a ship that changed history.

In part one of my tours I was shown the ‘Dry Dock’ this is a narrow basin or vessel that can be flooded to allow a load to be floated in, then drained to allow that load to come to rest on a dry platform. The Dry Dock is where the SS Great Britain is now positioned. I was guided under the glass sea where I explored the ship’s vast hull. I was able to see how the ship’s hull is preserved and learnt that there is a humid air extractor; used to ensure the ship is kept in good condition.

As moisture can cause corrosion to the ships iron hull, the Humid Air Extractor takes in water that is contained in the air around us. The humidity in Bristol’s air varies depending on the weather, but it is often more than 80%. When the air reaches 100% humidity it starts raining. There is a cloud of air containing 20% humidity that surrounds the hull to protect it.

In the second part of my tour, I moved onto the Weather deck where I stepped back in time to explore how passengers would have been accommodated on the ship. The tour guide provided details of how the first class passengers would be located near the more ‘pleasant’ half of the ship and the steerage passengers (known as third class) would have been sat in the less pleasant half of the ship. I learnt that travelling in steerage was not bad, but as long as you got along with your fellow passengers! Also there is a white line drawn across the deck; this revealed how passengers from different classes were kept separate.

I was surprised to learn that animals in the mid-19th Century would be carried on board: the ship was at sea for 60 days and there would have been no opportunity to buy food supplies during the voyage. I discovered that one passenger had listed the number of animals on board on one such journey, detailing: one cow, three bullocks, 150 sheep, 30 pigs, 500 chickens, 400 ducks, 100 geese and 50 turkeys.

Following from the Weather deck, I went to the Promenade deck, where I viewed the rooms that passengers would have stayed in during voyages. The ship had a Surgery room which was used for when a passenger or a crew member was injured. This part of the ship was visually exciting to see, as it gave me an impression of the way health and safety was considered in the Victorian times.

In the final part of my visit I went into the Brunel Institute & David MacGregor Library which is one of the world’s most important maritime archives. I was fortunate to get up close and personal to precious documents and rare personal objects which belonged to Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

My tour on SS Great Britain was incredibly insightful and enabled me to recognise the importance of changes in technology in Maritime history, which is why SS Great Britain holds such a historical significance.

Here are some pictures from my visit to ss Great Britain.

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Humid Air Extractor

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Dehumidification Machine

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The Ships Iron Hull is more than 160 years old.

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The surface of the iron hull has flaked away and has deteriorated that in some places there are holes in the plates, this is the result of corrosion which has been caused by chlorides trapped in the molecular structure of the wrought iron plates (as explained in the guidebook).

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Brunel’s Propeller – This is a replica of the one used in ss Great Britain. The first Propeller was 15’6’’ (4.7) in diameter, weighed 3.9 tonnes and drove the ship up to 12 knots. Brunel tested several propeller designs to find which was the most efficient.

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Dining Saloon in the Promenade deck was a popular area for socialising in between mealtimes. There were concerts, amateur theatrical performances, charades and other entertainment, as explained in the Guidebook.

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Model of ss Great Britain 1:48 scale, built in
1977-1981. This model is on display in the David MacGregor Library
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Roshan Gibson: #Expect the Unexpected

Was it a leaked National Trust advert intended to change our brand identity? Was it a spoof campaign or PR stunt? Was it made by us or not? These are the questions that have been circulating NT places since the hilarious video first went viral four weeks ago.

To date over 103,139 people have viewed the video, leaving behind over 200 comments and causing quite a commotion in the world of social media (#ExpectTheUnexpected.) It would seem that hundreds of people from far and wide were just as curious as we were to work out where this video had originated from.

We met with the creators and to our surprise they were a student team briefed by their lecturer to rebrand the National Trust.  We met with the duo to give them a massive pat on the back, but also in the hope that they may collaborate with us in the future. Their video not only made us all laugh, but also inspired us to keep challenging elements of the heritage world which are often perceived as dated and exclusive. 

Roshan Gibson is a trainee on Cultural Co-operation’s Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme based at the National Trust, London. SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Maheema Chanrai - Fingertip Explorers and Family Fortunes

Fingertip Explorers has been a grounding, consistent project throughout my traineeship. It was my first principal project at BMGA back in August 2013, and has seen me through nine months, three supervisors, two teams and five of the most daunting minutes of mylife. At first glance, it is little more than a family handling activity, the types of which take place at museums across the country on a regular basis. But that’s it: the joy of Fingertip Explorers is just how simple it really is.

The activity involves small groups comprised of one or two families, with a facilitator. The groups have a mystery handling object in their ‘Feely Bag’, and they have to discover more about the object without looking, primarily through touch.  Prompted by the facilitator, the group uses open questioning to find out more about the object, from how it feels, to what it might have been used for, to the era it came from. Emphasis is not placed on figuring out the right answer, but focus is directed towards the creative process that gets participants to think about their objects, and the idea that you can ‘touch but not look’ provides such a refreshing change to the often passive museum experience.

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Back in August 2013, my supervisor Louise Evans and I ran four sessions of Fingertip Explorers at M Shed during the summer holidays. I was pleased to note success as the project fulfilled its outcomes; families commented about how much they enjoyed the simple pleasures of working together to uncover history. M Shed’s place as a museum of public history ensured that the objects we used stimulated families to share stories about their past with one another. After we’d finished, I undertook a thorough evaluation of the project, concluding that what was a truly engaging activity needed better promotion as well as a wider range of objects in order to attract repeat and new audiences.

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In February, my colleague Alex Hardy and I spoke at the Kids in Museums ‘Family Fortunes’ workshop in Cardiff on the subject of Fingertip Explorers.  Together we gave a ‘Five Minute Blast’ and two half-hour workshops on how to use volunteers and handling objects to encourage intergenerational engagement with a museum’s collections. It was incredibly nerve-wracking attempting to condense something that is essentially in-depth to a room full of experienced professionals, but they reacted well to our presentation and the workshops were well-attended. They say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”:  I met one of the attendees again at a later conference, who mentioned that he is hoping to run a version of Fingertip Explorers in his own organisation. High praise indeed!

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The process has now come full circle. During the Easter holidays, I will be leading three sessions of Fingertip Explorers at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. We will be using a different set of objects, primarily reflecting our Natural History and World Cultures collections: the objects which provoke the most meaningful reactions are usually those which are transcendental and universal, those which anyone can identify with, appreciate enjoy. We have also invited along families from Bristol’s visually- and hearing-impaired communities, as the sensory dimension of Fingertip Explorers can add an extra level of experience for these visitors.

If you are in Bristol do please come along and experience a rare opportunity to explore museum objects at more than just face value.

Maheema Chanrai is a trainee on Cultural Co-operation’s Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme based at Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives. SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund. All views expressed in this post belong to Maheema.

Roshan Gibson: Would the National Trust come to the Diary Room?

The London Project (endorsed by the National Trust) works to reinterpret ‘place’ through the lens of London’s contemporary cultural scene and works to engage a younger, multi-cultural, critical and demanding public. The project seeks to find new ways for Londoners to develop their relationship with the capital’s special places, and strives to support the National Trust in gaining relevance in London where, compared to other areas across the UK, it currently has minimal impact.

In September the National Trust controversially opened up the Big Brother House as a temporary National Trust Property. 500+ ticket holders took part in a volunteer-led tour of the house/studio, learnt about its sociological and historical importance, and were even summoned to the diary room to talk to the voice of Big Brother. There was also the ‘Best Big Brother Housemate Ever’ competition which at first, may have been interpreted as a rather trivial part of the event.  Nevertheless, the stakes of the competition were high and one lucky ex-housemate would win National Trust membership for a whole year— something they were all desperate to get their hands on.

A competition’s a competition and there had to be a winner: in third place came the very lovely two-time champ; regular “Favourite Housemate” poll topper and now ex-Big Brother main show presenter- Brian Dowling. In second place, the late and great reality TV legend who shot to fame during Big Brother 3 and then to global infamy upon her 2007 Celebrity Big Brother return; Jade Goody. And the winner…drum roll please…the unforgettable and outright hilarious, pint-sized tantrum-throwing 2006 Housemate; Nikki Grahame. Right now, you may well be thinking, and quite ironically too, “who is she!?”, and you may also be wondering why on earth this competition is worth talking about at all? 

As I announced the results to diehard Big Brother enthusiasts who’d been Tweeting in daily reminders about the competition, I began to realize that over the last month our social media platforms had not only grown a great deal, but more significantly, the type of content being posted had also changed. Among the comments about the competition results, there were posts from thrilled Big Brother fans:

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Comic souvenir photographs taken by our guests…

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And some very important discussions about our interpretation of this much condemned studio-cum-TV house-cum-human zoo: 

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I had to wonder—would the National Trust have attracted such vibrant and diverse engagement if this event had commanded less of a social media presence? And will the National Trust’s new found London ‘fans’ stay interested in unconventional National Trust activities? When asked in our post event online survey whether or not participants would be likely to attend future events at National Trust properties, 84% of attendees either agreed or strongly agreed that they would and some even aired their new found interest in the National Trust on twitter itself: 

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It’s clear that events like this not only offer something fresh to Londoners and the heritage world, but they inspire diverse and unexpected audiences to the National Trust’s work, which in turn, makes us much more socially inclusive and approachable than generally perceived.

For our critics, the opening of Big Brother House and the London Project’s work more generally, is far removed from the National Trust’s vision to ‘protect historic places and green spaces…opening them up forever, for everyone.’ But if we really are concerned with opening historic places for ‘everyone,’ what better place was there to start than the house that’s described by TV critics as ‘the most important house in Britain’ and one that reflects ‘human kind in all its glorious diversity,’ as described by the National Trust’s London Director Ivo Dawnay.

It was great to see the London Project’s relatively new social media platforms not only grow, but become highly engaging. Whilst I still can’t say I’m a fan of Endemol’s BAFTA-award winning Big Brother franchise, I can say that as an aspiring museum professional, I’ve been incredibly inspired by this interpretation of our modern and national heritage. The challenge now? To continue delivering high calibre events that surprise, engage and spark debate!  

Roshan Gibson is a trainee on Cultural Co-operation’s Strengthening Our Common Life (SOCL) programme based at the National Trust, London. SOCL is funded through the nationwide Skills for the Future initiative launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund. All views expressed in this post belong to Roshan