Last week we announced the successful applicants to our recently re-launched grant scheme, Local Heroes.
We’re really excited to see the projects get started next year, but whilst we wait, here are some of the things you can expect to see, from tonic in Tottenham to dinosaurs in Doncaster.
Britain has a rich history of scientific achievement and we were delighted to support projects that recognise some of our most influential figures. Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, in their project titled Bright lights in the borders, will be illuminating some of their favourite scientists, including inventor of the kaleidoscope David Brewster and Astronomer and mathematician Mary Sommerville. In Greenock, James Watt, the famous Scottish inventor, will be brought to life in 3D printing workshops as part of McLean Museum and Art Gallery’s plans.
As well as our scientific stars, we are equally delighted to feature some less familiar names. The work of Elisabeth ‘Bessie’ Downes will be front and centre at a new digital display being created as part of The Atkinson’s project in Merseyside. Bessie was a talented artist and had a keen interest in botany and the natural sciences. She meticulously catalogued over 300 plant specimens using watercolours that were ‘so accurately drawn and painted that the species could be recognised at a glance’. Since Bessie’s death in 1920, the collection has become a valuable record of the flora on the Sefton coast, as a changing climate is altering the make-up of local plant life. Alongside Bessie’s work, the museum will be working with the Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership to develop a series of coastal walks. They hope these will marry the art of Bessie’s work with the modern day challenges the coastal landscape is facing as a result of a changing climate.
Elsewhere, a living local hero has been given the chance to share his enthusiasm for all things palaeontological. Dean Lomax went on to become an expert in the field despite not having the grades to study science at A-level, and is now an Honorary Visiting Scientist at the University of Manchester. Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, where Dean worked as a teenager – even discovering a species new to science in their collection – hope that the Doncaster-born twenty-something will inspire young locals to follow in his footsteps. Dean will be leading workshops as well as a fossil hunt to a site he discovered, sharing the opportunity to discover 310 million-year-old plants, crabs and insects hidden in the rocks.
The chosen projects span a huge range of locations geographically. The Orkey Natural History Society Museum will be taking a look at the life of Charles Clouston through photography competitions and workshops. Although situated in a town of just 2,200 inhabitants, the museum attracts over 12,000 visitors a year! Meanwhile, on the Isle of Wight they’re taking a look at The Reverend William Fox, who holds the impressive accolade of having more dinosaur species named after him than any other English person. (four, if you’re curious).
The projects are also reaching an extraordinary array of audiences, going beyond the museum walls and out into the community. Kendal Museum, nestled on the south-eastern edge of the Lake District, will be exploring the work of 19th century geologist Adam Sedgwick. They will be offering Arts Awards to local primary school children, as well as giving elderly residents of local care homes the opportunity to get hands-on with the museum’s collections – something they’ve been keen to try.
True local heroes
Some of the selected heroes are very much of their place and have made lasting contributions to their local heritage. One project, based at the Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum of Primitive Methodism, are reinventing a locally well-known name, Hugh Bourne. As co-founder of the primitive Methodist church, he made great efforts to promote scientific understanding among the communities with whom he worked, seeing education as a key way to improve people’s quality of life. His attention to the workings of the human body led him to favour fresh air and exercise, homely food, and early rising, whilst rejecting alcohol, smoking, overeating, and over-sleeping – good advice for us all.
In Tottenham, residents will have the opportunity to take part in a community workshop to re-interpret the work of John Elliot Howard, who lived and worked locally for most of his life. Making contributions to the study and distribution of quinine – a key ingredient in the fight against malaria – Howard’s work has links to colonial expansion, and the project makes interesting associations to the diverse communities that reside in Tottenham today. The results of the workshop will be used to develop a new ‘shadow performance’, by local artist Jennie Pedley.
We were impressed and inspired by the rich and fascinating proposals we received for this scheme and regret that we are not able to fund them all. We hope that other museums will take inspiration from these projects as they develop, and delve into the scientific heritage that we all have on our doorsteps.
To find out more about the Local Heroes scheme and to see the full list of projects, please see the announcement on our website.