Gosport Museum and Art Gallery re-development: community engagement

Work has started to develop the stories that we want to tell in the new Gosport Museum and Art Gallery development. Hampshire Cultural Trust has decided to do things a little differently and ask the people of Gosport for their opinion about which objects and stories they would like to see in their local museum. As a community-driven project, our ambition is to hand over as much control to the community as possible.

With that in mind, since June, our consultants Hara Clarke and trust staff have been meeting with targeted community groups to start the development of these stories. We wish to work with as wide an age range of people as possible and with groups who would not normally be seen as regular museum visitors.

Memory and creative writing/storytelling workshops have already taken place, with participants being given the chance to both view and handle objects and photographs from the collection which may have a special resonance, or that they think illustrate the town’s history and community spirit.

Members of the Gosport VoluntHeroes inspect a map showing the location of all the vessels involved in the 1937 Fleet Review out in the Solent. Especially interesting, as both German and Japanese ships were present just two years before the outbreak of WWII.

Thinking about Gosport’s vital role in national events, members of Gosport VoluntHeroes Group were especially taken with memorabilia relating to past Coronations and Jubilees. Maps and programmes from the Fleet Reviews, which took place out in the Solent and could be viewed from Gosport’s beaches, were a particular favourite.

An official programme for the 1937 Fleet Review – designed and printed by Gale and Polden of Aldershot and very typical of their style in that era. The programme was particularly resonant, as it carries adverts for shops and business that were once well known in the town.

Working with a group called Loud and Proud, a volunteering group for young people aged 16-25, who help others and the community through volunteering while building confidence and skills themselves, we looked at retail in the town and how it has changed, as well as how retail outlets promoted themselves. Who knew paper and plastic bags could be so interesting! We also had a great conversation about the revival of vinyl records – who needs streaming?!

Paper bag from the much missed Gosport Book Shop. It was books downstairs, but upstairs they had an impressive art equipment shop used by many of us for our school and University needs.

This community engagement will continue over August, as new groups, such as the U3A History group, come on board with their enthusiasm and knowledge. By September, we will have a fascinating resource collection of stories and objects that we can use to build the new museum display.

This article was written by:
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Jenny Stevens

Venue Manager at The Willis Museum & Sainsbury Gallery and responsible for the many and varied collection of objects on display and in store across the Culture Hubs team.
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