Interesting, cool, amazing and awesome!

Word cloud of visitor surveys for new workhouse galleries at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

This is a word cloud of how our visitors described our new workhouse galleries when they visited last year. We love that they thought the displays were interesting, cool, amazing and awesome!

The survey results  also told us that:

Visitors learnt ‘How recently it was used for elderly care, as tend to think workhouses were Victorian’

‘We have learnt a lot about the life and times in the workhouse – well done’

‘All of the displays combine to bring the building and its history to life in a most imaginative and informative way.’

‘There’s such a vast improvement all round. It’s much nicer for children and families alike.’

‘[I was surprised by the] number of people who left the workhouse with a trade and a future.’

‘[It gave me] reflection space – [and made me consider that the] problem of how to look after the poor is still a very modern issue.’

‘Imagining what it would have been like and the people and how our lives have changes. What they were thinking and feeling.’

We love to know what you think about our new galleries. We are open Mon- Fri next week for February half term and then everyday from the 5th March to 29th October 2017.



Workhouse Displays update

Fit out of the new Workhouse displays is progressing well. It looks like a building site at the moment (because that’s pretty much what it is!) but we’re starting to be able to see what the displays are really going to look like. There’s new glass walls, stages, plinths and label stands. There’s also a big hole in the floor (don’t worry it’s supposed to be there!)


Excitingly some of the graphic panels are being put up – we’ve been hard at work writing text and choosing images so it’s great to see some of them on the walls. What do you think?


We’re busy working on all of the audio visual elements of the new displays too. We’ve been writing scripts and finding the right people for the parts. Here’s a sneak peek of a new projection of photos from our collection.




Behind the scenes in the workhouse displays

The Main Hall and Workhouse Displays are currently closed to visitors. But they are closed to staff too! We have formally signed over the spaces to our fit-out contractors Elmwood. They are installing walls, cases, graphic panels… it’s a big job in lots of galleries! Today we had a sneaky peak and took some photos for you to see.

Bringing the washing machines back to life!

Our engineering volunteers have been busy over the past few months. Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse has been awarded funding by the Arts Council England PRISM fund to restore two washing machines in the laundry. This has paid for cleaning materials, new belts and bespoke parts to be made.


The washing machines in the laundry date from 1950 and 1953 and are amongst the first automatic washing machines in Europe. Automatic washing machines are now the norm, but in the 1950s this was revolutionary technology that overhauled institutional and domestic laundry practices.


The washing machines clearly demonstrate this revolutionary technology by having a clock face on the front of the machine with hands which would turn to the different cycles in the wash; 1st wash, 2nd wash, boil, 1st rinse, 2nd rinse, 3rd rinse, breakdown. Using a boil wash was normal then but now we are encouraged to wash at 15°C.

These washing machines had not been used since the building was a County Care Home, which closed in 1975. Our engineering volunteers have done a brilliant job carefully restoring them and getting them working. So when the new workhouse displays open this summer keep your eyes peeled for the cleaned up machines and join us on an event day to see them running.



Hello from the education department at Gressenhall!

We’re now well into the new school year and we have begun delivering a major new school event about the Neolithic period. The team has spent a lot of the summer holidays developing sessions for the event: a ‘special things’ session, a farming session, a hunting session and a shelter session. We will have a turn at delivering each of the sessions- so far I have delivered Special Things (which includes an object-finding and handling session in our First Farmers Gallery, plus making a clay pot) and Shelter (where children find out about Neolithic homes, and have a go at making their own shelter). It has been a really useful experience to see how a session is developed and then to run and evaluate it. It’s also interesting to be in the same position as the rest of the team- usually everyone else has delivered a session lots of times whilst I’m new to everything. This time it was new to all of us!

Another new school event will be starting shortly- the new primary curriculum requires children to learn about life within living memory, and in response to this we will be offering a 1950s event for Key Stage 1 children. I have been researching life in the 1950s, getting toys and television footage (including a truly terrifying Gerry Anderson show called Torchy the Battery Boy- look it up if you’ve never seen it!), and most importantly sourcing items for the 1950s-themed doll’s house which we’ll be using to illustrate what a home would have looked like during this period. I never had a doll’s house as a child, so a fascinating (and slightly bizarre) new miniature world has been opened up to me!

Some of the growing collection of doll’s house furniture, complete with cat and mouse

Some of the growing collection of doll’s house furniture, complete with cat and mouse

In addition to preparing for our new events, I have once again been helping to run our Early Years group, Muddy Museum Café. Our most recent session was about tractors, so we set up a tractor training run (with the children role-playing as tractors) in our farmhouse garden. They then painted and decorated cardboard tractors, which had been lovingly made by me and our Live Interpretation Officer, Rachel. (Who knew it could take almost a whole day to glue together cereal boxes and loo rolls!?)


The fleet of tractors ready to be decorated

The farmhouse garden converted into a tractor training run

The farmhouse garden converted into a tractor training run






I recently shadowed our Visitor Services Trainee, Lydia, to get an idea of the multitude of different tasks carried out by our Front of House team. I realised just how hard the team works to keep the museum looking lovely and clean, and making sure that all of our visitors are having a good time.

I’ve also had the opportunity to attend training sessions which will be very valuable for my professional development. As Tabitha, another Learning Trainee, mentioned in her blog, we and the other SftF trainees attended an Understanding Museums course; one of the convenors being Gressenhall’s first curator. In two short days Bridget and her colleague Nicola were able to give us a great insight into the heritage sector, including the history of museums, how to use objects and stories in museums, governance, ethics and much more. Coming from a different sector I found this course really helpful and it was something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do without my traineeship.

For the remainder of my time here I’ll be doing lots more training, including Forest Schools Level 1, Paediatric First Aid, becoming an Arts Award adviser and several sessions by SHARE Museums East, who put on free training for museum staff and volunteers in the East of England. However the main bulk of my training over the next three months will be a foundation course run by the Group for Education in Museums, giving me specialised training in museum learning. I believe there are still a couple of places left on the course if anyone is interested.

One of the great things about doing a traineeship at Gressenhall is the opportunity to work with different departments, to get as broad an experience as possible. Over the summer holidays I was able to work with the Events team to deliver informal learning sessions such as Art Attack!, a themed art session which took place every day of the holidays. I also helped with one of our biggest public events, Village at War, which took place at the end of August and saw thousands of visitors coming to commemorate both the First and Second World Wars. One of the highlights of the two-day event was a flypast by a Lancaster. I was in role at the event as a 1940s shopkeeper, handing out rations of sweets to the under-18s and selling Spitfire badges to raise money for the Battle of Britain Memorial Fund. Many thanks to everyone who bought a badge! I’ll be joining the Events team again soon for our Hallowe’en event on the 30th and 31st October. More details about the event are on the main page of Gressenhall’s website– do come along!

Selling Spitfire badges at Village at War

Selling Spitfire badges at Village at War

Ancient House Museum, Thetford, and Fenland Lives & Land Project.

A very blustery hello to everyone – I feel like I’ve been travelling around all over the place these last few months being very excitedly busy!
Since my last blog I’ve spent most of my time delivering the informal learning programme of the Fen Museums Partnership Lives & Land Project out in the Fens, which covers parts of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Lincolnshire. However I’ve still found time to continue projects at Ancient House as well as some training workshops, so it’s been rather hectic but great fun.

First of all, the end of the school term before summer saw me in charge of the Ancient House History Club for a four week slot. I decided on the subject of King Henry II and the rebellion of his sons (which I enjoyed studying at University), and in which time Thetford Castle was destroyed – a great link! It was a challenge to be able to fit such a complex subject into four, hour and a quarter sessions, but it was really successful, with the kids enjoying a trip to the castle mound and re-enacting a possible argument between Henry II and Hugh Bigod – very amusing! The challenge really gave me a great sense of the work and consideration that needs to go into any museum club for it to be an accomplishment. As well as the great children that are so happily engaged in a range of subjects delivered by the staff at Ancient House, and keep coming back for more!

1 me and HC acting

The beginning of the school holidays also saw the final preparations of Ancient House’s Thetford and the Great War part one exhibition, part of the Thetford Remembers HLF funded town partnership, which opened on the 1st August. Because of the popularity of our Toys and Games exhibition, it has been extended until November, when the Thetford and the Great War part two exhibition will take over. That means this initial exhibition offers a great introduction to how the war affected people and the town, and be continued later in the year. A main section of this exhibition is the Victorian kitchen, which has been updated to a 1914 Wartime kitchen. A key part of this was the transformation of our resident mannequin Mr Newton, into his son Leonard Newton, both of which were members of a family that lived in Ancient House. Leonard went to war in 1914 and unfortunately was killed in action, and it is his story that we wished to tell within the kitchen setting. As part of this Emily, the Teaching Museums Curatorial Trainee, and I began working on an interactive unit inside a suitcase, as if belonging to Leonard, which visitors could rummage though its contents. The whole process was a learning journey, from the design and objectives of the suitcase and sourcing the handling objects, to the creation and display of the information boards inside. It really gave me an insight into how much time and thought goes into each display case and interactive unit within the museum, with every detail needing to be taken into consideration before the final product. Before the exhibition opening it was all go in the museum with everyone ensuring that all was prepared and ready, and the event went smoothly with great success! I am really proud of our suitcase and what we have managed to create in such a short time, and I really hope that it will be a good accompaniment to a fantastic exhibition exploring the effect of the Great War on Thetford and its people.

Emily and I with our suitcase of handling objects associated to Leonard’s life.

Emily and I with our suitcase of handling objects associated to Leonard’s life.

 Dressed for World War One House Alive event at Ancient House making seed bombs!

Dressed for World War One House Alive event at Ancient House making seed bombs!

For the Fenland Project, the informal learning programme goes alongside the five exhibitions that have been touring some of the museums that are in partnership. Together with Ruth, the project support worker, we have traveled to a variety of museums during the school holidays to deliver the programme, as part of a larger event or as an addition to the museum’s event calendar. Activities range from creating your own Viking brooch, hearing about ice skating championships and making mini-skates, to a community art project decorating Fenland bygone animals that will be animated into a film in September. A vast range indeed!

 Some examples of the brilliant pattern work done by children over the summer.

Some examples of the brilliant pattern work done by children over the summer.

This August bank holiday Ruth and I were at Denny Abbey Farmland Museum, to be part of a medieval weekend creating stained glass windows, alongside a cider stand, other children’s activities, and talented re-enactors. Although rather wet and cold on the Monday it was a brilliant day enjoyed by everyone – even those in soaked cagoules and wellies! The windows that the visitors made were fantastic and looked really colourful inside the Abbey where our activity was based. I’m sure many will have been stuck straight onto bedroom windows as soon as arrived home! Travelling to the varied museums such as Denny Abbey, Prickwillow Pumping Engine Museum, Chatteris Museum, and Ely Museum, has been a great insight into how such diverse and individual museums operate, as well as how a partnership can really bring these museums together and benefit all within it.

5 stained glass

6 stained glass and reenactors

One of the other activities this summer, Fenland food!

One of the other activities this summer, Fenland food!

Amazingly, along with all the goings on at Ancient House and the Lives & Land project, I’ve managed to fit in some training too. Along with other Museum of East Anglian Life and Gressenhall Skills For The Future trainees, I attended a special two day course on Understanding Museums, lead by Nicola Johnson and Bridget Yates. The two days were crammed full of extremely valuable information, from the history of museums, to museum ethics, all of which were interesting and highly useful. As well as a chance for me to meet other SFTF trainees I hadn’t managed to before, it was fantastic to really understand the ins and outs of museums, and how and why they do what they do today. Nicola and Bridget really know their stuff – I thank them sincerely!
In addition to this, I was fortunate enough to attend a Kids in Museums Family Fortunes workshop at the Jewish Museum in London. The day was full of inspiring speakers as well as group discussions and sharing ideas on how to make your museum more family friendly. I particularly liked the principle of ‘grossology’ at Chiltern Open Air Museum, and poo dissecting – finding out what people of the past ate by poking around in fake poo, great fun and I’ve kept the recipe! Everyone who attended really got involved and the sharing around the room was unbelievable, with so many ideas of things that museums do or could do to bring in more families and engage with children and adults. I highly recommend the workshop to all in the museums sector, whether in learning specifically or not, as it really emphasises the reason why museums exist.

I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings, but they unfortunately will possibly be my last on this blog as my traineeship finishes in early November – I’m sure it will come around very quickly! I really am relishing all the experiences and possibilities that this traineeship has given me since March, as well as the people I’ve met along the way. It has also reassured me that my heart lies in museums and the brilliant work they do, so I must continue to pursue this with great vigour and excitement!

Bye for now!

Tabitha Runacres – Heritage Learning Trainee

Hello from the New Heritage Learning Trainee

Hi everyone! My name is Rebecca and I’m the new Heritage Learning Trainee here at Gressenhall.

Before coming to Gressenhall I had trained as a teacher and was volunteering in museums as I knew I wanted to work in Heritage Education. I am very lucky to be given the opportunity both to gain specialist training and to be working on such a lovely site (I am quite glad that our office is in the museum rather than on the farm, as I don’t think I’d get any work done with the temptation of piglets, lambs, a foal and even a farm cat so close by!).

I have been at Gressenhall for a month now which has flown by. We have had school groups visiting almost every day since I started so I have been doing lots of observation and helping out with sessions such as Three Little Pigs, Billy Goats Gruff, Homes Long Ago, Home Front Heroes, Victorian Activity Days and Homes or Habitats- if you’re interested, you can find out more about our school sessions here:

I have been looking at the different ways the education team interpret the site, how sessions need to be tailored to different age groups, and how to get children interacting with the site and our collections. Of course, learning in a museum environment is quite different to learning in a classroom- I am beginning to develop an understanding of this and look forward to discovering more over the course of my traineeship.

Bertie the soldier telling children about his time at the Front

Bertie the soldier telling children about his time at the Front

Last week we piloted a new session for Key Stage 2 called Annie’s War, which centres on World War 1. It was very interesting from my perspective to see a session being run for the first time; what the challenges were and how everything was prepared. Thankfully everything went well and the feedback from schools was positive!

Hoeing the field for Olive the Land Girl with the help of one of our Suffolk Punch horses

Hoeing the field for Olive the Land Girl with the help of one of our Suffolk Punch horses

I have also been helping with Muddy Museum Café, Gressenhall’s weekly Early Years session where we read a story, then have play and arts & crafts related to the story. For example, last week we read ‘Portside Pirates’ before going off to the woods to hunt for treasure, make pirate sashes and bandanas, and finally decorate parrots to take home. Having trained as a secondary teacher it is a real pleasure to be able to work with little ones, especially as we see the same children each week- a rare occurrence in museum learning!

Currently I am preparing a fairytale trail for our Once Upon a Time Key Stage 1 event. This has involved sourcing and photographing lots of fairytale characters. I even had to ‘uglify’ a duckling- not something I ever thought I’d be doing as part of my job! Another unexpected task later this week will be getting to dress up as an Ugly Sister, again as part of Once Upon a Time- I’m so excited! (Oh no she isn’t!) (I really am)

The now Ugly Duckling ready to go out on our Fairytale Trail

The now Ugly Duckling ready to go out on our Fairytale Trail

The summer holidays are rapidly approaching, which means no school groups for a few weeks. This is a chance to catch up on planning and administration, as the team are busy delivering during term-time. The Events team will be putting on family learning activities throughout the holidays, which I am looking forward to seeing, and then we’ll be gearing up for the new academic year when I will hopefully be doing lots more delivery.

I’m having a great time learning from Jan, Katie, Rachel in the Education team and all the other staff at Gressenhall, and can’t wait to find out what other weird and wonderful things I’ll be doing in the name of museum learning!

Rebecca Hunt, Heritage Learning Trainee

Gaining Skills For The Future in Heritage Learning

Hi I’m Tabitha the Heritage Learning Trainee and am based in two different places with two different hats to wear! During school term time I am mainly based at Ancient House, Thetford, and throughout the holidays I am mainly in King’s Lynn for the Fenland Lives & Land project, as well as across the Fens Museums when needed. Since graduating from university last year I have been involved with museums doing collections volunteering as well as working as a museum assistant leading tours. I’ve always enjoyed exploring historical sites with fascination since I was little and felt they are a vital place for learning, and for not just history but more varied subjects. When I saw this traineeship appear I thought it looked just my sort of thing – fun events with schools, projects, and working with youth groups – but it turned out to be so much more!

The title of Heritage Learning Trainee is one that includes a range of activities and tasks, especially as the traineeship is divided between sites, but a challenge is always rewarding and I got straight into learning the ropes.

Working with the Fenland Lives & Land project involves assisting with the great learning programme that’s on offer alongside the five community co-produced exhibitions funded by HLF which are touring the Fens Museums over the year. As one of the partnership museums Lynn Museum is having three of the exhibitions with the latest currently being installed, and to coincide with the fantastic exhibitions there’s great family events. The first was ‘The Vikings are Coming!’ which explored the links with the brave bearded explorers visiting the watery fen landscape.

Picture 1 viking event

‘The Vikings are Coming!’ Our Lives & Land event went down brilliantly. Odin would be proud!

 The day included meeting Vikings, creating your own Viking brooch, as well as having a go at coin minting in the Viking method. As this was my first large event during the traineeship I was excited to be able to create my own activity to be available on the day, and decided to offer a simple paper activity of ‘what kind of Viking would you be?’. As it was so popular on the day Project Support Worker Ruth decided it would be included in the summer Learning Programme. Some of the Fens museums have already booked the session so I expect to see more fantastic Viking characters being created this summer.
It was great fun on the day and interesting to be involved in the preparation for such a big event day. I will definitely be using those skills for future events coming up, with both the Fenland project and at Ancient House museum.

The next big event I was able to be a part of was a World War Two family day at Ancient House, run in partnership with the 8th in the East project, which explores the 8th United States Army Air Force in the East of England. The visiting families were given a G.I. Training Card upon arrival, and over the day completed the card with stationed activities. These including painting your own patch, meeting ‘Hank the Yank’, and making Wartime Truffles with myself and a volunteer (the secret ingredient being mashed potato!)

picture 2 1st photo wartime truffles

All prepped for truffle making.

This was my first chanceto get into acharacter session, which I know I will be doing a lot more of at Ancient House, as their historical events and school sessions are very popular, so this was a perfect introduction. I have done sessions with youth groups before, but it was a totally different experience being able to step back in time in a great historical kitchen, which if you have seen will understand how atmospheric it can be. Before this event there had been several meetings to organise the day and how it would work, and being a part of these was vital to understanding how much work goes into a joint heritage event, from the finance to the consideration of the museums Georgian floor and using paint!

 I really enjoyed the chance to use my knowledge of rationing and Dig for Victory, as well as getting my hands dirty with cocoa powder! It made me realise how much preparation is needed for events, and that you can never plan enough – as anyone in learning will know, anything can happen!

 Getting to grips with providing the sessions that are available at Ancient House, with Learning Officer Melissa Hawker, is a great experience as they are so varied, and really blows away any presumptions that museums are dusty old lifeless buildings! Another event I was able to be part of was the ‘Hard Times Victorian Mystery’ for the West Norfolk Home Educators. The day involved a serious crime of a stolen spoon, and Victorian sessions interweaved with suspicion and plot twists. It was great fun playing the role of ‘Alice’ for the day alongside four freelancers, which gave me more confidence in delivering a drama-based session while being able to observe them, and ad-lib when needed! It was also a key chance to gain more knowledge into how to provide a diverse session, as I had previously done drop-in family days or working with specific groups. However having to adapt to the varying ages that were present was a brilliant challenge and a fun day was had by all.

‘Hard Times Victorian Mystery’ – who took the silver spoon? Turns out I had!

‘Hard Times Victorian Mystery’ – who took the silver spoon? Turns out I had!

Very early on in the traineeship I realised my responsibilities would not only be school sessions and event days, but a whole lot more within the goings on and exciting tasks happening at Ancient House. When starting the role I knew my interests were not just in learning but also in collections, conservation, and curatorial management, and realised that within this position I am able to explore those roots and be involved in a variety of roles.

picture 4 1st lives and land

Installing the ‘Living on Land and Water’ exhibition at Lynn Museum in March.

With Fenland Project I have been able to help and obverse the moving and installation of the touring exhibitions, which meant visiting other fen museums as well as getting down to the nitty-gritty of what an exhibition really consists of.

Moreover, when I began in March the staff of Ancient House were preparing for a new exhibition named ‘I ♥ Toys and Games’ which celebrates play in living memory.

Working with volunteer Dan on some lead Snow White figures for the Toys exhibition.

Working with volunteer Dan on some lead Snow White figures for the Toys exhibition.

This meant I was able to get stuck in with a range of tasks from recording the vast amount of objects that were brought in on loan, to being in charge of the retro sweets needed for the exhibition opening. 

This gave me a great insight into the real effort and organisation that goes into exhibitions, and I am excited to be involved from the start with the Thetford in World War One exhibition to commemorate the centenary this year.

 As well as being able to explore my interests and passions through the ongoing exhibitions and mini-projects with Ancient House and the Fenland Project, I have been able to attend various training days. These range from SHARE Museums East courses on object handling & packing, housekeeping, and conservation, to an upcoming Teaching Museums day visiting independent museums around North Norfolk. So far these have all been really informative and have given me a wider knowledge of the roles within a museum, and the care and dedication that goes into caring for our vital collections and buildings by various people. We can all do our bit to help!

picture5 housekeeping training

Everyone’s got to do their bit with the Museum housekeeping!

To conclude then, it’s been a fantastic first few months doing such a great range of tasks and responsibilities. I’ve been able to gain a better understanding of the daily life and inner workings of a busy museum, as well as the organisation needed and involved in a project which covers a fantastic subject. With this position I’ve been able to visit several of the fens museums, and various sites in the Norfolk Museum Service. This has given me a whole other perspective when it comes to the efforts at a national level, and has made me realise how lucky I am to work (and live close to) such a unique and thriving area for heritage.

There’s plenty coming up for both roles. My ‘Fenland hat’ has been firmly on over the last couple of weeks to prepare for our Bygone Beasts event at Lynn Museum, which coincides with the opening of the Wild Fens exhibition – I’ve had a sneak peak and it’s looking fantastically ferocious! At Ancient House we’ve got several bookings lined up for more group activity days, plus our History Club and Teenage History Club are both getting through their new term programme. To add to the mix, as of last week I am trained to be an Arts Award advisor for Discover and Explore levels, so I can’t wait to start putting this to good use with our clubs.

All in all a great start to the traineeship being busy, learning, challenged, and having a blast! Bring on the rest of the year I say.



Adventures of a Visitor Services Trainee

My name is Lydia and I’m the Visitor Services Trainee for the friendly and positive Front of House team at Gressenhall. A ‘Visitor Services Traineeship’ is pretty much what it says in the name. My duty is to be there for between 200-3000 visitors all day, answering whatever questions they throw my way, responding to whatever surprising situations arise and helping to keep the museum as clean as possible for visitors. This also means clearing up after them, but as long as they’ve enjoyed their day and will be coming back for more fun at Gressenhall then that’s all that matters! I’ll also be learning a great deal about museum operations and how our dedicated duty managers Phil and Gina undertake the day-to-day running of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

It’s our job to make everything accessible for visitors so before anyone arrives at the museum, we share the tasks of opening up the museum inside and outside, along with cleaning wherever necessary. This includes ensuring that the toilets are squeaky clean before any visitors use them and undertaking the vital task of keeping them topped up with toilet roll and soap. Making sure that visitors have a nice experience using our toilets can actually be a rewarding task! No one wants to use a grubby toilet when they go out for the day and it is our job is to give them a pleasant experience at Gressenhall.

I’ve enjoyed spending many busy days in the museum shop, including a Day With A Difference on Mother’s Day on which we had 800 visitors wanting tickets from the shop as the day went on. My job was to issue all sorts of different tickets and answer the many varied questions the visitors asked me. I enjoy the buzzing atmosphere of the shop on a busy day and interacting with visitors who are having a great time is always rewarding. Front of House recently launched a new ticketing system, and on the day of the Spring Fair I was on standby all day in the shop, involving issuing tickets and museum passes but also holding the fort when the new computer system doesn’t always do what we expect it to. This usually happens when there’s a long queue of visitors desperate to get in to the museum and enjoy the fair, and as a member of Front of House staff I find the key is to smile – apologise and to explain that we are getting to grips with the new IT system.  Together the Front of House team are conquering the new system and its proving to be an efficient way of doing things.

Manning the Front of House Desk in the main museum involves being the first point of call for questions ranging from ‘where’s the toilet?!’ to ‘I’ve lost my child’s pink jacket – do you know where it is?’ as well as questions about the museum, it’s  collections and our event days.  I am responsible for doing the security checks around the museum and to make sure everything’s tidy and to empty the bins which are mostly filled with the remains of lunches. As long as visitors have enjoyed their lunch at Gressenhall on a picnic bench in the sun and got the most out of their visit then that’s all that matters and I have contributed to that!

Something I’ve enjoyed doing over the Easter holidays is Object Handling with visitors in the Treasures Room. Visitors have to memorise a picture of how a Victorian table has been dressed and then remember how to dress the table with the plates and cutlery we’ve provided them with. I’m always impressed by how much people remember once they’ve looked at the picture. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching the younger children complete the task as they don’t usually look at the picture but instead use their own imagination to lay the table, which can be surprising and amusing.

I have been down on the farm helping out if needed including queue management with horse and cart rides. This involves letting visitors know when and where horse and cart rides are happening and counting out a group of about fourteen to have the next ride. I also had the fundamental task of firmly telling overly excited children to stand back from the horse cart and helping to prevent anyone from getting injured!

Image Enjoying a sunny horse and cart ride.

 The farms Norfolk Black pig, Margaret, gave birth to five piglets recently and me and Graham, another core member of the Front of House team, were on standby for her. It was a long birth which took all day and there were three hours between the first and second piglet. I’ve never worked with animals before so this was my first time watching an animal give birth and it was an amazing experience. I was at the door to the pig pen talking to excited visitors and letting them know what was happening, and holding out newborn piglets for them to look at. Whilst I had the easier task, Graham was inside the pig pen with Margaret, being there for the piglets as they shot out ‘like torpedo’s!’, he said. As Social Media Champion for the Front of House team, it was my job to take as many photos as possible. Some were nice which made it to the Gressenhall facebook page and some weren’t so nice which didn’t make it!



So it’s been an exciting and varied first couple of months at Gressenhall. I am really enjoying working with the Front of House team who are incredibly dedicated to their role. I’m developing a variety of skills relating to making the visitor experience at Gressenhall as enjoyable and efficient as possible.

Lydia Bartlett

Visitor Services Trainee

Oooooo We’re half way there, and a bit.

As the title and Bon Jovi so nicely put it I am now half way (and a bit) through my Collection Management Traineeship here at Gressenhall. You’ll be pleased to know at this point the Bon Jovi references stop as there doesn’t seem fitting lyrics to describe how much of a mad, but strangely pleasant trip it has been. It started with an opportunity and that’s kind of what this blog post is going to be about. Opportunities: mine and those of the people in the workhouse since way back when. How opportunities change lives.

Let’s start with mine. Before I joined the Gressenhall team I was unemployed and nearly house bound with mental health issues. My first opportunity came in the form of an email. The second was getting the job itself. This gave me a sense of belonging. I became a valued member of a team and a museum professional, something I never thought I’d be. The opportunity to go to countless conferences and meet inspiring, talented and challenging people. The chance to find out what I wanted to be in the museum world.

Opportunities for people in the workhouse came in much simpler forms. A new set of workhouse clothes that made them feel like they belonged somewhere. Lessons in sewing and domestic service that girls received. Training in trades like hat making and tailoring that boys received. Apprenticeships to enable them to earn a wage for the rest of their days. Or even the opportunity to knit scarves and socks for the armed forces at Christmas. This task was given to the old and infirm of the workhouse.

These simple, probably small things changed lives. Like that small email changed mine, all for the better. This doesn’t really have a point to it but I think what I’m trying to say is we should not dismiss or bat aside the small opportunities that come along in life, but like those inmates in the workhouse we should grab and hold onto each small chance with both hands.