The exhibition at Andover Museum, part of Hampshire County Council Arts and Museums Service

Andover Museum, Hampshire

David Bond , 15.10.2012
Hampshire County Council Arts and Museums Service was approached by Clare Bromley, learning coordinator at Dene Court homeless hostel in Andover, part of the Two Saints charity group, to see if Andover Museum could help residents find out about life in the workhouse and being poor in the past.

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies was subsequently approached as it holds a variety of archives relating to Andover and the poor laws that complements a display at Andover Museum on the workhouse.

Following an initial meeting, it was agreed that Dene Court’s residents should have an opportunity to learn about Andover, poverty and homelessness in the past through archive and museum collections.

They would also create their own photographic material for a small exhibition reflecting their thoughts and feelings about the town and homelessness today.

The plan was to hold an initial workshop at Dene Court to introduce the archive and museum. Museum handling objects, copies of archive material and digitised film and photographs were used in the workshop.

The second workshop was in the form of a visit to Andover Museum where residents had a guided tour and were given the opportunity to look at a small exhibition of archival material relating to life in Andover’s “pest house” and workhouse, as well as attitudes towards “vagrancy” in the past.

The workshops were followed up with additional workshops involving Dave Chaplin, a professional photographer, and Brian Evans-Jones, Hampshire Poet 2012.

Funding for the photography workshops was sought through Two Saints and the Hampshire Library Service. These workshops provided the residents with some photographic skills and a chance to articulate their thoughts through creating poetry.

The outputs from the workshops, photographs and poems, provided the basis for designing four exhibition pop ups.

The final part of the project was to set up the exhibition pop ups and additional resources at Andover Museum, and to invite a group of pupils from a local primary school to see the exhibition and learn about life in Andover’s Victorian workhouse.

Pupils were briefed on the event at school and given the task of putting together questions for interviewing willing Dene Court clients on their experiences with the project.

The pop-up exhibition ran at Andover Museum during July and August and then transferred to the Lights arts centre, also in Andover, in September for two weeks.

It is hoped the exhibition will raise awareness among the local community in Andover of homelessness.

Two Saints will display the exhibition at some of its other hostels to illustrate ways of forming partnerships with cultural services. It will feature later in the year at Hampshire Record Office and may also be displayed at local homeless hostels in Winchester.

David Bond is the archive education officer at Hampshire Archives & Local Studies