Mon 22 Jan
Post by Megan Turner

‘Curators Toolkit’: Celebrating Young Curators at National Mining Museum

Over a series of 5 weeks in November and December 2023 a group of 6 young adults (aged 16-24) participated in curatorial and collections based workshops at National Mining Museum Scotland. In these workshops, the group engaged with the Museum’s collection in hands-on activities, curated an exhibition case, and learnt transferrable skills.

In each weekly workshop the Museum’s Curator and Education Manager focused on a different heritage skill, introduced various parts of the Museum’s collection and actively involved young adults in heritage. The workshops covered topics including: collections care through handling and packing Museum objects like trophies, framed photographs, and clothing; conservation techniques including making and placing pest traps and cleaning miners’ payslips from the early 20th century. Reflecting on the conservation cleaning activity, one of the participants stated, “I felt privileged to touch a piece of history after it had been unopened for so long”. 

Members of the ‘Curators Toolkit’ group cleaning Miners’ payslips using smoke sponges.

A main part of the project was for the young adults to independently plan, select, care for, and curate objects for an exhibition display case. The themes spanned: ‘Mining and Colonisation’, ‘Christmas in Scottish Mining Communities’, ‘The Chronological Development of Safety in the Mines’, ‘Mining First-Aid and Ambulance Organisations’, and ‘‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, Safety Posters in the Mines’. Objects for these themes range from a lump of tallow fat to safety posters! This creative and unique exhibition case of objects from the Museum’s collection showcases developed heritage skills of the participants.

The group’s completed curated exhibition case!

‘Curators Toolkit’ was part of and funded by Go Industrial’s ‘Powering Our People Conservation Engagement Programme’ which aims to develop young people’s (16-24) heritage skills and encourage further education and careers in heritage. The project also supports the Museum’s alignment with the Young Person’s Guarantee. The aim of the Guarantee is “preparing young people for the world of work, opportunities for young people who face the greatest barriers to work, ensuring a working environment which supports all young people.” For completing the project, those involved also achieved Bronze Heritage Hero Award for ‘getting involved in heritage’ from Archaeology Scotland. Altogether, boosting their employability and experiences working in heritage.

One of the participants summarised:

“Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity! It is a challenging sector to establish yourself in and I believe this experience will help me with that.”

We are hugely proud of everyone involved in the project, not only for producing the exhibition but for their enthusiasm and dedication throughout!

The ‘Curators Toolkit’ exhibition case is currently on display outside the Activity Room at NMMS.

The ‘Curators Toolkit’ group with their exhibition case.