Tuesday marked the last field trip and penultimate session of the Citizen Curators course. The classroom sessions have been enlightening, and we have touched on the definition of a museum during the last six months. Still, our perceptions were tested thoroughly in this session as the classification of a museum was once again re-addressed.
Our group consisted of a selection of members from the seven different museums involved with the course. Some of these institutions are traditional museums with dusty artefacts, perilous swords and gruesome stuffed animals. But others like the Falmouth Art Gallery and the Clay Works at Wheal Martyn are more niche and don’t fall into the traditional Victorian image of a museum.
‘Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.’ – The Museums Association (MA) definition in 1998
Established at the beginning of the Millenium, Shelterbox, are in their twentieth year of providing emergency aid items and shelter equipment to families cast out of their homes by natural disasters or conflict. The visitor in Truro highlights the need for this invaluable service.
A charity which receives no funding by the state, Shelterbox visitor centre, the location of our visit, ticks many of the boxes as a potential independent museum. It displays the essential objects deployed in the event of a specific emergency and the items needed for communities to recover from unexpected displacement. The curated exhibitions enable visitors to engage, learn and be inspired by the work the organisation carries out. Tick, tick tick!
Shelterbox have collected together artefacts, specimens and content to represent all stages of a disaster for the exhibition. It invites visitors to adopt the role of a packer assembling their signature green boxes for imminent disaster. Or the role of an observer after the worst-case scenario has happened when all is lost or buried. Beautifully shot audiovisual content also documents the success of the project from a grassroots perspective. It also subtly invites visitors to empathise with those who have benefited from the gift of essential tools to enable communities to rebuild. It is an interactive record of our modern world which has cultural and historical importance in educating all generations to the plight of the world’s population. Tick, tick, tick.
In my eyes, the groundbreaking Shelterbox visitor centre ticks many of the classification boxes and deserves recognition as a modern museum.