Members of the Steering Group examining Geffrye-related archive materials at the London Metropolitan Archives © Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum, London

Vanessa Weibel, 12.12.2014
Giving young people agency in the museum
Since 2009, the Geffrye Museum in London has established a successful model for working with young people from local London communities. Young people build skills through creative projects, producing work to be showcased in exhibitions, and in taking consultancy roles to lead and support staff in curating exhibitions, creating digital resources and programming events.

We adapted this model for the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England-funded Centenary Celebrations – a youth heritage project celebrating 300 years since the almshouses were founded and 100 years since they reopened as a museum.

A steering group comprising young people aged from 15 to 20 and representing different youth groups and colleges (Hackney Ark Transitions Service, Hackney UTC and the museum’s youth advisory panel and young consultants) took part in the creative and programming parts of the project.

Over 18 months they co-curated an exhibition and digital timeline, wrote a project blog, and designed and supported related programming.

Challenges in delivering this aspect of the project have included: attendance,
making more traditional archival material accessible and engaging, and

Staff developed approaches to mitigate these challenges, which included:

  • Planning in external sessions with partners, such as visits to archives to view and handle important materials, and tours of other key buildings.
  • Keeping members informed of other skills-building and training opportunities at the museum and elsewhere.
  • Ensuring members had formal acknowledgement of their work and skills through project certificates and recognised awards such as vInspired and Arts Award.

Vanessa Weibel is the young people’s programmes coordinator at the Geffrye Museum