Edinburgh Museums and Galleries

Diana Morton, 12.12.2014
Citizen Curator and Transplanted projects
Citizen Curator was a two-year outreach project funded by Leith Townscape Heritage Initiative and developed to engage young people with the heritage of Leith.

The project worked with community organisations to explore museum and gallery collections relating to the local area. The project cumulated in an exhibition at the City Art Centre, where items chosen by the young people were displayed alongside contemporary responses. The exhibition fused art, history, contemporary collecting, participants’ artworks and documentary film.

Groups involved in the project included: Young Saheliya, a group for black and minority ethnic young women who created a film exploring the diversity of the area; Leith Academy, a local secondary school that created landscapes of Leith; and Home-Start, a mothers’ respite group, which created a banner exploring local identity based on the museum banner collections.

Open workshops for young people were held at Leith Library, where participants took part in art activities, and at Leith Festival, where participants could choose artworks for display and write labels.

The project also worked with Leith School of Art to recruit a young artist-in-residence and with LeithLate, a local arts organisation. The wider community was also involved; the Leith Local History Society acted as academic advisers and proofreaders; Leithers loaned and donated items for the exhibition; and one local took part as a volunteer photographer.

Transplanted was a six-week arts project also working with Young Saheliya. The artist Mary Evans, the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Edinburgh Museums and Galleries outreach service and Edinburgh Art Festival ran art and botany workshops with the group exploring how people and plants migrate to different countries and cultures.

The project, which culminated in a small exhibition in McDonald Road Library, was inspired by an artwork by Evans called Transplanted. This piece was on display at the City Art Centre in the Edinburgh Art Festival exhibition.

One of the main challenges of the project was that many of the young people had other priorities, such as university and jobs. This meant that attendance at some of the sessions was low and the same young people did not always attend. We addressed this by encouraging peer -learning, encouraging those who did attend to show others what they had learned.

Another challenge was that Young Saheliya meets in a women-only centre, which meant that those leading workshops there had to be female. Outside of the centre this was more flexible, but some young people struggled to get permission to take part in these outings.

This was resolved in part by being flexible to the needs of the group and discussing any issues, such as male van drivers delivering materials beforehand.

Diana Morton is the outreach and access manager at Edinburgh Museums and Galleries