"Museums give us a chance to really engage with our past and hopefully help shape our future for the better."
Ivy, tells us of her time on Impact Arts Creative Pathways 18+ programme and working with the National Museum of Scotland, to create an LGBT+ trail through the museum.
History. A term which, like truth or fact, is often only truly accepted when there is strong evidence to support or deny the narrative of lives and society.
What is recorded, altered or even completely omitted from history is a process that revolves around the decisions taken by those recording, archiving, preserving and recounting these tales. This is nothing new. From the failed attempt to blot out any trace of the rulership of Pharaoh Hatshepsut following her death around 1458 BC to the image of Richard III decimated by William Shakespeare for patronage and public performance, these acts show just how malleable and fallible history can be.
This can also be true concerning the recent surge of biopics attempting to recount stories on the big screen to varying degrees of success. While often educational, entertaining and bringing to light the work of amazing people in history, like that of L.G.S.M (Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners) in Pride (2014), these movies still take many creative licenses which can often cause discrepancies from the book they are adapting.
We as a community, now more than ever, need our voices throughout history to be heard. For people to know, that while terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender have not always been in use, what they represent has been present since the early parts of history; whether recorded in the creation legends of humanity and the world itself or represented through artwork dating back potentially to at least 6000 BC.
Several museums across the UK have recognised a demand for this, with The V&A providing a monthly L.G.B.T.Q+ tour on the last Saturday of the month. Not to mention the very well-received Beyond the Binary project in Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum, which was responsible for the creation of the "Out in Oxford" trail for visitors to explore, and it seems the success and popularity of these tours has not gone unnoticed.
I am part of the Creative Pathways 18-25 Edinburgh programme ran by Impact Arts. An employability programme, where they help you improve soft skills such as team work, communication and decision making. While working towards an SQA qualification and having fun at the same time. They also help you to find a work experience placement. As part of the programme we worked on a creative project with the National Museum of Scotland. To compile a Hidden Histories tour that would promote many of the L.G.B.T.Q+ voices that have gone unmentioned or overlooked throughout the years. Working closely with a team of committed and dedicated staff, we worked towards creating both a paper trail and an audio tour that celebrates diversity and sexuality in our local museum, helping to spread a message of acceptance and belonging to all visitors.
Within our group we managed to find a number of intriguing items. From a World War 2 Enigma Machine to a terracotta statue of Prince Ganymede of Troy. With the help of some amazing curators and guides, we began setting out the layout of the tour, mapping our way through the somewhat Daedalusesque halls.
The plan was easy enough. Execution, as with many plans was harder. How to get someone from Alexander the Great on the fifth floor all the way to King James I & VI on the first floor, then back all the way up to a poem by Liz Lockhead on floor seven, without losing a member of the public or leaving them with audible silence. In the end, we settled for an audio tour and trail that people could explore at their own pace. That way they could look at the galleries in any order that worked for them; so long as we ensured the instructions were concise and accurate.
I loved the experience, it was challenging at times but really interesting. The staff were friendly and supportive, there to help and make our work easier; both from the Museum and Impact Arts.
I enjoyed the project very much and would really recommend that young people engage with museums and heritage. Museums give us a chance to really engage with our past and hopefully help shape our future for the better; to learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them.
While our trail and showcase were unfortunately postponed due to CV-19, the important work that this project represents goes on. History, now more than ever, must be remembered and these stories should be heard.
The trail was due to be launched in June, in connection with Pride month. Pride is a time we celebrate the victories we have gained and to remember those members of the community we have lost along the way. It is also a time that we make our voices heard, not just for ourselves, but for the memory of those that came before us. We have made steps in many countries; like same-sex marriage and members of the LGBT community going into politics to have their voices heard. But this does not mean we can slow down. There are some countries where it is illegal to be gay. Where it is a crime punishable by imprisonment or death. I believe we cannot stop the fight until our right for liberty, freedom and justice is acknowledged and accepted.
*June 2021 - The trail has now been launched and can be found here.
You can find out more about our Creative Pathways programme here and see how you can get involved.
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