Prior to the museum opening I was working for the museum in a very hands-on role as a cleaner. I was on my hands and knees to lift bits of plaster/ chippings etc from carpet and the toilets after the builders departed. I also gave assistance with display cases, labelling and general tasks. I was asked to research further information relating to the panels, making copies to be available for museum visitors. The research continued until after the official opening, as well as carrying out whatever other assistance was required e.g. with mounting of exhibitions, photocopying, cataloguing.
In 2004, having responded to an enquiry from the curator about in-house exhibitions for the 2005 programme, I was asked to undertake responsibility for The District at War. (The curator was aware of my research experience in other areas, and for publication.) Since then, I have completed fourteen exhibitions and assisted with many others.
What are my Ambitions for the Future: For the Museum?
I would wish for more local interest and support for the programme of exhibitions and events. I would also hope that an appeal could be made in the local newspaper (or to other museums) for donations/loans of three- dimensional items of local historic interest to help ‘ring the changes’ occasionally in the permanent displays. (I understand the cartoon for the east window of St Paul’s Church is in a gallery in Newcastle. Another museum holds items published by William Davison. Part of the former railway station goods office and warehouse is at Beamish – are there other local artefacts in store there or elsewhere?)
Advice for using Volunteers:
Anyone expressing an interest in research needs to be aware that it can be time consuming and laborious work- albeit for a good cause. It is however very interesting and rewarding. Hard historical facts need to be softened by the inclusion of anecdotal material - of which there is ample in the museum resources - and illustrations where available. . The museum has a list of suggestions for volunteers wishing to stage an exhibition.