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Citizen Curators Pilot

We have been a part of the Citizen Curators pilot, a Change Makers initiative supported by Arts Council England and Cornwall Museums Partnership, with the RCM acting as its host venue. It is a curatorial skills training programme for a group of volunteers which began with learning about what it takes to be a good curator and what skills they require through training sessions with Tehmina Goskar. This covered areas such as the ethics of modern curating, importance of the objects within the collection as the basis for our further activities and the importance of balancing putting things into context without going overboard on information in communication or exhibition creation.

The pilot has demonstrated to us all the value of teamwork, good communication and being focused in prioritising the tasks at hand.

Following our training, we had several projects which we focused on:

The Chinese-Cornish connection

Our first task was narrowing down the focus from the entire Chinese collection by finding links between objects using MODES, the Courtney Library and other resources. Following conversation with Sarah Lloyd-Durrant, we investigated those that had collected these objects bringing us to Reverend Ewart Burton Wright and the Methodist collection of objects from China. We communicated with the Cornish Methodist Historical Association that donated the collection to the museum to ensure that our information was correct. We also hosted an object Show and Tell and the making of Chinese lanterns to coincide with Chinese New Year. The Show and Tell was a Chance to showcase some of the objects within the Chinese collection that were outside of the Wright Collection as well as a chance to give the public further information about the context behind the objects on display. We invited members of the Chinese Community, in addition to sharing with them what we knew about our selection of objects.

Being Cornish on Instagram

With the idea of Hireth (the Cornish word meaning longing or nostalgia for a place or home) being the current exhibition within the Philbrick Gallery containing Cornish landscapes, we are using the application Instagram to explore feelings of Cornishness and Cornish identity. This has been a relatively new area for the Museum and on last count the museums account was up to 1216 followers from 69 through the Citizen Curators efforts. We also, supported by Michael Harris, installed 6 paintings we felt embodied this feeling into the existing exhibition complete with anecdotes from our viewpoints and research.

The Parkes Scrimshaw collection

In our most recent project, we were tasked with a larger case that began the same way as the Chinese project. We chose Charles Edmund Parkes and his collection of Scrimshaw. Scrimshaw is the folk-art of sailors that carved or engraved images onto teeth or bones of animals that are stuck at sea for prolonged periods and was performed by many different ranks upon the Whaling vessels. This involved a lot of research, some help from Sue Coney to discover the origins of Parkes and then narrowing down the pieces from the 119 pieces Parkes donated down to the 50 that are on display in the gallery. This was quite a long process due to the varying origins of some being Sperm Whale teeth, Whalebone or Baleen from toothless whales as well as other animals that may have been inscribed by those not residents upon the seven seas. Some of the remainder of Scrimshaw objects may be coming out soon [For more information on this, we have a time lapse video of our install on Wednesday the 25th].


It has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of the pilot and we hope the next batch across the Cornwall Museum’s Partnership museums in September get as much from this experience as we have!

Matt, John, Vicky, Tom and Siân – The Citizen Curators team


The cases on Chinese Methodist and the Scrimshaw Collections are now part of the World Wide Wonders exhibition within the Treffry Gallery where the collectors are celebrated.


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