Key milestone achieved!

Just a quick update to let you all know that we have reached a key milestone in the work in the Collections Gallery.

This week Lauren and I completed writing object labels for the 2000 objects inside the gallery. This represent an enormous achievement – meaning not only will we have labels for EVERY item in the gallery but also for the first time we will have accurate documentation and computer records for all of these objects.

In some cases this has meant cross checking with collections in Norwich, double checking with stored objects, trying hard to read numbers partially rubbed off, measuring items, creating sub number records and generally being really good detectives. The majority of objects have also been photographed – with the few remaining to be mopped up over the next few months.

Although this has meant progress has been slow – it has been worth doing properly. We have never had accurate records for the objects in this gallery. They weren’t completed last time it was installed making it impossible to answer any questions about the objects in the cases. Now we can be confident we know what is in each case, and we have recorded everything completely. We are really proud of ourselves and hope you will agree that it is only worth doing a job if you are going to do it properly!

The texts will now be proofread before going off to our designers for setting. They will be printed and installed in the new year.

We are now moving on to think about what items we will install on the mesh in the Collections Gallery in the new year. No rest for the wicked!

This week is also Lucy Burrow’s last week with us. Lucy has been working on our stored textile collection and has done amazing work photographing and documenting everything in Store 3 everything. She has been busy beavering away independently and we are really grateful for all her hard work and creativity thinking about how we can use the collection more in the museum. We wish her the best of luck as she returns to her research at UEA.


Into the winter closed season

A long overdue update! This gives a little bit of a summary of 2017 plus a look forward to 2018.

Voices from the Workhouse

This year has been a year of snagging in the new galleries downstairs– some successful and others still in progress!

Good news:

  • Floor repairs completed
  • New A3 people panels have been approved to begin building our “library” of personal stories so they can be regularly changed
  • Census barriers. These will be replaced with a stud wall this winter.
  • Eat and sleep platters and mugs and various object label errors. New graphics are being ordered this winter. Platters will have wrapped foamex inserts
  • Benches – obviously not working. Quotes will be routed in and the benches yacht varnished (not oiled) this winter. Fingers crossed!
  • Laundry yard pump, clock interactive, stereoscope – Mark from Myriad is coming in November (date tbc) to check all his interactive. Two replacement USB sticks have been provided for stereoscope for quick and easy repair rather than waiting for me.
  • Grey barrier tops – lots more ordered. Unfortunately can’t glue down in case we need to remove the cord to enable us to move the object behind.

Still in progress:

  • Statue repairs. We have asked Alan Herriot the sculptor for more support in terms of colouring the repair patches, offering us a day of training and pricing up replacement statues (these would be different to existing to tell more people stories from new research)
  • Laundry yard resin – the bounce back properties are being monitored. Repairs would be unsightly and expensive so just watching and waiting for now.

Comments are positive and we are interested in thinking about new ways we can use these spaces – one opportunity is to change the digital projections. Any ideas for projects to create new and or temporary material for the projectors gratefully received. In 2018 we will be hoping to complete the room folders, switch around the people A3 stories and bring in new ones. I’ll also be working with Carleton College on new digital interpretation and hopefully integrating this more with the actual displays.

Collections Gallery

Work has been slow in the Collections Gallery – particularly after May when Josh left us. We did open ready for the summer holidays as a work in progress and the space has been very well received by our visitors. We aim to have all items installed, object labels printed and installed and lights corrected before we open in March. There will still be further work to do in 2018 – specifically improving the interactives (any thoughts gratefully received – we recognise that this isn’t thought through or working at the moment), creating material for further resource folders and planning and installing objects onto the meshes.


  • Errors on 2 large graphics – to be re-printed with corrections this winter.
  • Lights – Wensum will return once all installation complete – probably just before we re-open
  • Workhouse clock – Andy and I are on the case with Colin clock man. Problem is with the modern micro-switch for the rewind mechanism – not the 18th century clock mechanism thankfully.

Rural Lives

Rural Lives was a very simple and quickly put together temporary exhibition this year – but has been really well received. It was lovely to be able to install something into our new temporary exhibition space, and to be able to showcase some of our contemporary collecting. There was some space for learning – we didn’t get everything right! Labelling was perhaps not obvious enough in the folders and some visitors didn’t realise that some of the images were of modern life. It was a great opportunity to make further links with the local photographer J.A. Mortram and Gressenhall also featured in a film about his work made by wex photography:

Collaborate – Rural Lives

Collaborate with Gressenhall is a way for Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse to share its resources and work on collaborative projects with individuals and community groups. It was started by Megan last year with a workhouse theme and display in the chapel. It is designed to be a sustainable and ongoing way of working with a different theme each year. This year the theme was Rural Lives with me coordinating it so the resources include collections and photographs on display in the Rural Lives exhibition and redisplayed Collections Gallery.

In May, we held an Inspiration Day to preview our 2017 photography exhibition ‘Rural Lives’. The temporary exhibition included photographs of Norfolk people from the past and today. Attendees explored the themes of the Rural Lives exhibition and Collections Gallery with me, Josh, Megan and contemporary photographer J. A. Mortram. Activities throughout the day encouraged participants to get creative and think about Rural Lives in the past, present and future.

Throughout the year the Collaborate blog was updated with work in progress from our Collaborators

During October half term our Collaborators had the chance to display their work within the Rural Lives exhibition. Our Collaborators were inspired by many different strands of the Rural Lives theme – the portraits, what it means to live in a rural area, J.A. Mortram’s contemporary photos and the historic photos in the Rural Lives exhibition. We had wonderful pieces on display – from poetry to paintings, sculptures to stitched works. These pieces were displayed within the exhibition alongside the pieces that had inspired the works. And we’ll be doing it all again alongside the ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs’ exhibition next season!

Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs – 2018’s exhibition

Lauren is curating the exhibition for 2018 which will explore Norfolk’s pubs and brewing industry both in the past and today. It will be in the Collections Gallery but I am aiming for the exhibition space to feel very different to the Rural Lives exhibition this year. I will be working with Dave Savage to create a bar! This will be a family friendly space with the chance to play a traditional Norfolk game ‘Twizzler’.

‘Beer and Brewing – Norfolk’s Rural Pubs’ will include objects from pubs no longer trading such as The Kings Arms in Shipdham. It will explore the demise of the rural pub and ways that communities are saving their local watering hole with newly acquired objects from West Norfolk’s first Community saved pub at Shouldham. It will ask visitors to consider why pubs are in decline and if the smoking ban has affected pubs. There will also be lots of different coloured and shaped beer mats collected from a local pub. On display for the first time will be a plaster panel created by the artist John Moray-Smith which was formerly in The Jolly Farmers in Kings Lynn. There will also be items from old and contemporary breweries.

 Collaborate – Beer and Brewing

Next year’s temporary exhibition is on beer and brewing. This may be a tricky one to get people to engage with so we have a number of ideas for developing material for collaborate. Again – any ideas much appreciated!

  • Engaging with existing artists/projects inspired by pubs for example – can you please add any artists/creative people you know have been inspired by pubs or would like to be involved? See image and poem at the bottom of the email for examples.
    • Creative Arts East – Inn Crowd (spoken word in pubs)
    • Pubs and poems
    • Pub collages (Norwich exhibition)
    • Pub name illustrations
    • Paul Bommer – pub name print


  • Engaging with local creative groups – running inspiration sessions for them to create material – can you please add to the list any groups you think might be interested?
    • Dereham Photography Group
    • Silver Social


  • Engaging with local pubs – running a “Norfolk pubs” round in local pub quizzes? Promoting the museum and exhibition to different audiences – please add any local pubs you think might be interested in hosting us?
    • Asking quiz teams to design a beer mat for their pub – to be displayed in Collaborate exhibition
    • Guess the objects question
    • Norfolk pubs/brewers questions


Our volunteers have continued to do an amazing job this year. Particular projects and successes:

  • Panhard is back up and running successfully attending a local rally at Sandringham with plans for more local appearances next year.
  • Farmer’s Foundry restoration continues. This should provide us with a new steam engine ready for operation by next summer. It is proving more expensive than we originally thought.
  • Research volunteers have made fantastic progress summarising and cataloguing TNA material. Next year we will be looking at how we can summarise and catalogue the material at the Norfolk Record Office. This work has found us new person stories for the A3 panels downstairs.
  • Collections volunteers have put up with the library being out of action and have still managed to clean over 2000 objects and help us install them. We are now working on getting the library back up and running for volunteers by next year. Gina was involved in a meeting planning this – which was great to get FOH input. Once the library is back physically we will think about how and when we are opening it (and how we advertise that to visitors)
  • Our new task volunteering scheme is up and running. This allows volunteers to take more control of the type and timing of their volunteering. They sign up for particular tasks rather than join a set team. If you can think of any small tasks that could be completed by a volunteer please do let me know and I’ll advertise them over the winter.

In Touch with the Past 2018

Broad themes have been decided – please do let me know if you have any ideas for In Touch With the Past:

  • February Half term – Spring cleaning
  • Easter – Nature
  • Summer 1 – A Walk in the Woods
  • Summer 2 – Food Glorious Food
  • October Half term – Cats, rats, bats and witches