Curatorial September update

It’s been a little while since our last update but Megan, our Curator and Lauren, our Assistant Curator have been busy! Here’s a little taster of what they’ve been up to:



We are very grateful to receive many offers of items to the museum. One of our most recent donations was this Norfolk County School washbowl. The donor, very kindly travelled up from London to deliver it safely to us. The washbowl has now been accessioned into the museum collection and joins a matching beaker which we already had. Norfolk County School only existed for twenty years so we are very pleased to have two items from it.

Norfolk County School was a public school founded by Joseph Lloyd Brereton to provide education to the sons of farmers and artisans as part of his experiment in County Education. It opened in 1874 and was situated near North Elmham. The school had it’s own railway station (the County School railway station on the Dereham to Fakenham line). Largely due to a decline in pupil numbers the school closed in July 1895.


All year we have been working with local artists and community groups on Collaborate. Over the last few weeks we have seen what they have created and how they have been inspired by the messages and collections on display in our Beers and Brewing exhibition. This week we will be working together to put up a display of their work. It will be on display within the exhibition from Saturday 29th September to Sunday 28th October.

Once upon a time 2019

Even though there are still a few weeks left of the season we have been working on next year’s exhibition. Once upon a Time will explore children’s books. Over the summer holidays we were asking our visitors on site and online what their favourite children’s books are. We also wanted to know if any places or objects at Gressenhall reminded you of a book. Does Cherry Tree Cottage garden remind you of Mr McGregor’s garden in Peter Rabbit? Staff, volunteers and work experience students also got involved! We’ve been collating all the answers and ideas on our pinterest boards and are now thinking about ways we can incorporate these books and ideas into the exhibition.





Building a wall to break down barriers

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The Voices from the Workhouse project has redeveloped our wonderful building to tell the stories of the workhouse through objects, documents, sculptures and projections. Upstairs, the Collections Gallery is undergoing a fantastic transformation to showcase yet more objects from Norfolk’s rural past.

Alongside both these elements we’ve been running an extensive learning and engagement program to raise awareness of the museum’s new look and to encourage visitors to share their creative responses to the stories and objects on display. Some of these activities and projects have taken place here at the museum, and others have reached out into the local community. Some did both!

One such project was called ‘Brick By Brick’, inspired by the beautiful red bricks of the workhouse. What secrets do the walls hold? What could they tell us?

Lots of groups of different ages and abilities got involved. Participants were treated to a short talk and/or a tour of the workhouse which stimulated discussion on themes like rural isolation, poverty and institutions. It was easy to make connections to contemporary issues about how we look after the poor today.

After the talk and discussion, there were two activities. Firstly, the group placed wooden figures on a workhouse map. The cute little figures were extremely appealing to all ages, and the large-sized map made a very striking visual prop.

Locating and relocating the workhouse figures according to status, age and gender naturally provoked a lot of discussion relating to the issue of ‘difference’ in its many forms.

Then, each participant made and decorated a hollow ‘brick’ in whatever way they chose that made it meaningful to them. Inside each brick they were invited to put words, a picture or an object to represent their secret, wish or dream.

The ‘Brick wall’ was displayed, as promised to participants, at GFW during October half term 2016 in conjunction with another Learning & Engagement project and the GFW Collaborate exhibition, encouraging all those who contributed to visit the museum.

In April 2017 an additional Brick By Brick outreach session went to HMP Wayland, where prisoners in the PDU and PIPE units engaged fully with the idea of walls holding secrets! One of the prisoners wrote up the session and his final comments demonstrate how the message of the project had been successfully conveyed to participants:

When staff at Gressenhall workhouse museum present this talk they ask the group participating to make cardboard bricks – and then to decorate them in a way that tells their story. With the increasing numbers of cardboard bricks the museum is continuing to pass on the whispered stories of people’s lives. So yes, the walls can talk, as we heard in this session and the story continues to grow proving that we are more than a ‘Brick in the Wall’”.

‘Brick By Brick’ was just one of many community learning & engagement projects at Gressenhall. Watch out for our partnership making phonecase tweets with Mind later this year!!