Can you separate the wheat from the chaff? Join the RMN Committee!

Image credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading

The Rural Museums Network is looking for some new members to join its Executive Committee. It’s an excellent way to develop your CV, meet people working in museums across the country and share ideas.

It is an exciting time to join as we are currently looking at our future vision for how the organisation can best serve its members in a post-pandemic world. You will be able to help shape the future work of an active and lively Subject Specialist Network.

Rural Museums Network Secretary Melanie Williamson remarked “it’s a fantastic opportunity. I have gained so much from joining the committee, it’s given me the chance to try things outside of my day job and develop my skills. I’ve been able to network with specialists and work with professionals from renowned rural institutions; I’ve been involved in planning and promoting events; and it’s given me ideas for interpreting the collections I work with and wider knowledge of the sector, including the issues affecting museum professionals working in rural organisations. The role is low maintenance, which fits easily into my schedule as I work part time.”

The Committee meet six times a year.  At the moment these are exclusively online Zoom meetings, but we hope to return to meeting face to face at least once or twice a year in due course. The Committee manage the day to day running of the Network, organise an annual conference, and run projects such as the ACE funded ‘Reap the Rewards’ programme.

You certainly do not need to be an ‘expert’ in agricultural collections, and we would love to hear from a wide range of individuals who can help ensure that the committee continues to represent the diverse museums and collections that we’re delighted to have within the network. If you are interested or would just like to find out more, please contact us

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Networking – The Power of People

As part of the Rural Museums Network Reap the Rewards grant, a series of seminars was organised to promote the RMN, a Specialist Subject Network. This event on 4th February was in Rutland, England’s smallest County, at Rutland County Museum in Oakham.

Rutland County MuseumRobin Hill was our facilitator for the day and delivered a great example of the sort of friendly expert advice which can be accessed through the Rural Museum Network. As a group we were from a mix of volunteer run, independent, and local authority museums, including one of ‘The Fenland 6’, Leicester Museums Service, and our host Lorraine Cornwell, curator working for Rutland County Council. I was the most distant attendee from Lancashire Museums, but I was keen to learn about Rutland Museum’s Collections Review. With tea and coffee on tap, we each chose an issue with our sites or collections which we would like to disappear. Chatham house rules applied, but as we listened to the issues, helpful suggestions and useful information was provided by Robin and other members of the RMN. My issue, the last mortal remains of a late Medieval / Tudor farmhouse which had been ‘saved’ in the 1970’s but with no paperwork or plans for rebuilding. Robin suggested the Historic Farm Buildings Network as a good source of information and support, and I will be following this up.

Rutland County MuseumAll too often we work in isolation, and this simple exercise really highlighted that networking really works, and just talking is a great support when discussing collections.

Recycle your crisp packets display at Rutland County MuseumMuseum relevance was another topic of the day and we discussed various ways of making our collections and sites relevant as key to improving sustainability. We often forget that originally many of our towns were built to serve a rural community. Today that concept has been reversed, and now the rural community serves the urban. Interpreting our rural collections linking them to food poverty, environmental conservation issues and the impacts of the new post-Brexit common agricultural policy, are other ways to make our collections relevant to our audiences. Rutland Museum also links to the community and governance by having Rutland Council’s meetings in the Museum, but the best idea of the day was the recycled crisp packet collection point scheme –which links to local schools.

At the end of the morning we toured the Museum and it is well worth a visit. The main building is listed because it was built specially as a fencing school to train cavalry troops for the Napoleonic wars. Today its main display area contains chronological cases of Rutland’s history, combined with highlight pieces such as a complete Massey Harris Reaper Binder and an octagonal game larder.

Though a small museum, Rutland has an enclosed courtyard which has been converted to allow the collection to be displayed outside. It was here that the Rutland Collection Review had focused. The review, which we discussed in the afternoon, concentrated on the large objects with each being scored on 6 criteria to a maximum of 35 points. The criteria were uniqueness, surface condition (originality), provenance, production, interpretation value to collection, and personal view / emotional response. Just hearing how Robin and Lorraine had approached the review gave useful indicators as to how I will look at our large object collection review. Rutland has published its review which can be found here>>

Hanging banners at Rutland County MuseumAs a result of the review the displays are great and well interpreted as the photos show, I really liked the hanging banners.

Further displays in the workshop area included the only New Drop gallows in the UK. As a painting conservator it was interesting to see a hand operated paint mill where dry pigments were ground into powder and mixed with linseed oil.

Edwardian games at Rutland County MuseumAs the day continued we enjoyed a great lunch, brilliant cakes and fresh fruit, and we tried the traditional toys and pursuits of an Edwardian child including spinning tops and, ‘Toad in the Hole’- you will have to visit to find out about that one!

During the afternoon Robin highlighted the work the RMN has undertaken to create the Distributed National Collection – a rural collections’ database of objects held in public and private hands which highlight items of significance. Access to this information, via the Collections Trust is a brilliant resource when assessing our own collections and trying to work out the importance, relevance, and scarcity, of an item. Also assisting in avoiding unnecessary duplication of collections across the country.

Every Object Tells a Story sessionEvery Object Tells a Story was the final session of the day. We worked in pairs and reviewed an object to see if we could find other ways of interpreting it for a wider audience. My colleague and I decided on the Euxton Hall gun, designed and built to defend Oakham from Napoleonic invasion. Neither of us were particularly keen on it in military terms but after 30 minutes or so of consideration we thought it had great links to the social history of invasion. We thought that it could better engage audiences by linking back to 1066, and forward to 1940, and should also highlight the importance of local invention and discovery.

So what did the day do for me? Using the RMN and its peer experts, and linking to work at MERL and MEAL, I now know there are major resources out there to help. By linking to experts with Jiscmail I am hoping to learn more about Lancashire’s collections and save time in doing research.

Heather Davis is an archaeologist, art historian and painting conservator with over 30 years’ experience of local authority museums. She is now the senior museum professional at the Lancashire County Museum Service.

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Trial and Error the Key to Successful Interpretation

The 1940s Farm at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.

The 1940s Farm at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.

In January I attended a Reap the Rewards seminar at Beamish open-air museum, which tells the story of life in North East England.

We were met at the reception inside a former train station building. From here, we took a short tram ride down to the main street in the 1900s town, glimpsing some of Beamish along the way, including the exciting development of the new 1950s town. Our seminar was held inside the old bank building and although very cold we had amazing views of the town outside, with passing trams and buses.

The day began with a tour of the main stores from Senior Keeper Seb Littlewood who explained some of the challenges faced with storing a collection that includes some huge items of machinery and transport. He explained how they authentically use original objects in the living museum and when parts become worn down they are repaired or gradually replaced, using traditional techniques. Seb took us to the 1940s farm which originally began as an 1800’s farm. This particular exhibit had the lowest visitor figures and so the museum decided to change the farm to an early-1900s farm. Again they found that people were not visiting this area as much as others, and so after further research and looking at the strengths in their collection they developed a 1940s farm instead. They discovered that they could work with local people to uncover new stories about a 1940s farm as it was still in living memory and also people from further afield had interesting memories to share about their experiences on farms as evacuees.

It was interesting to hear how a museum has tried different approaches without giving up, after facing difficulties. There were so many strong stories ready to be told and they finally found the perfect way to share them. This was inspiring and reassuring to know that failure can be used to create new ideas and opportunities. It is important to look at the strengths in your collection, but also to think about how you can work with communities and local people to build on your collection of objects, ephemera and oral histories to share new narratives with your audience.

During the afternoon session, we discussed contemporary collecting in rural museums. It was interesting to hear about the different approaches that rural museums are taking to collect objects. Lots of similar issues arose such as caring for different types of objects and identifying whether objects are relevant to your collection when there is no specialist knowledge in the organisation. This is where the Rural Museum Network is really useful as it can provide a forum for specialists and non-specialists to share ideas about collections and organisations can ask for advice in identifying and caring for objects.

Gemma Bailey is Community Heritage Curator at Craven Museum & Gallery and trustee for Yorkshire & Humberside Federation of Museum and Galleries.

Founded in 1928 by local collectors and enthusiasts, Craven Museum has over 60,000 objects, spanning geology, archaeology, natural history, and social history of work and home life. Celebrating the story of the Craven Dales, the eclectic and varied collection is located in the historic Skipton Town Hall, High Street Skipton and is managed by Craven District Council. The Museum is currently being redeveloped thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund which will increase the accessibility of the Museum and the collection, as well as create new and innovative displays to tell the stories and showcase the treasures of the Craven Dales.

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Seeking Solutions and Finding Support

Rural Museums netwReap the Rewards event at St Fagansork meeting 21/01/2020 and visit to Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru – St Fagans National Museum of History

It was a lovely day, clear skies, cold but dry and sunny with no wind. Apparently Wales was breaking barometer records with readings of 1050.5 hectopascals (hPa) recorded not far away in Mumbles, the highest reading in the UK since 1957! The perfect conditions for a winter visit to what the leaflet still refers to as one of Europe’s leading open-air museums. The business of the day was a meeting of the Rural Museums Network, so the open-air experience was sadly limited but included a walk across some of the site taking in the new Gweithdy gallery and Llys Llywelyn the medieval prince’s hall.

Woodlands, gardens, Welsh rural buildings, animals and big outdoor play area were all in evidence all contributing to the desire to return for another visit.

We were looked after by Senior Curator Gareth Beech and treated to a personal tour of two of the three new galleries that have won the site Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019.

Life is… gallery deals with the social history stories that are so well supported by the museum’s collections. As a new gallery within the refurbished St Fagans main building it was clearly doing well for museum visits and organised learning trips alike.

Gweithdy – the making centre building and displays at St Fagans

Gweithdy – the making centre

Gweithdy gallery is some distance away from the main building and by all accounts does suffer somewhat in terms of visitor numbers as a result. Yet it is purpose built housing the gallery, plus the site’s second café, a small craft workshop room and an outdoor space used for blacksmith courses with portable furnaces. The gallery takes a different approach to items from the same core collection, dividing its areas up into the material used to make the item, or tools used with that process. This allows an interesting breakdown within the gallery each following a separate narrative, but telling the story of rural craft industry and life in Wales.

Rural Museums Network

The main point of the day was not of course visiting the museum, but attending the Rural Museums Network Seminar hosted by Chris Copp from Staffordshire. This was one of a number of regional events being held in order to keep the network going and to engage with collections of rural life in other museums. For the ice breaker we were each encouraged to outline our worst nightmare and consign it to ‘Room 101’ – everything from duplicate collections (over twenty seed drills from Shugborough) to woodworm were gleefully discarded and it got the group thinking.

As my first encounter with the network I found the general introduction, the items on collections and contemporary issues, and the routes for further information and support a revelation. Certainly if the North West meeting at the Kendal Museum of Lakeland Life had gone ahead I would have attended that and perhaps made some more local contacts. On the other hand the discussions, the people and the venue made this trip very worthwhile.

The problem

With increased pressures on our services Lancashire County Council are being forced to consider all options and our chosen route forward involves a full collections review. Like many other services our collections date back to local authority reorganisation in the early 70s. Some pre-existing collections came to us, but the vast majority is material collected over the past fifty years. Inevitably the temptation is to try to ‘save’ too much, not only of our main industries of cotton and coal, but also of farming, craft and rural life which were also a vital part of our story. National Museum Wales approach at St Fagans of collecting the buildings within which these crafts and industries flourished is out of our reach – so what to do?

Delegates explore St Fagans

The solution

In order to conduct a collections review a number of very important factors need to be present. One of which is to know and understand your collections in a wider context. Imagine my relief on discovering at the Rural Museums Network that curators across the country, including many of my predecessors in Lancashire, had been sporadically contributing to a dataset dedicated to what is referred to as the Distributed National Collection. An understanding of the existence of this alone was well worth the effort to make the trip, the tour of such an excellent and interesting venue on top of that was a bonus.

The support

I am now hoping that back in the day job I will find help, support and information from this network. The optimism of the late 70s and 80s when it was just a matter of time before we would use all of our collections, including recreating every kind of craft workshop, evaporated long ago. Our own efforts to create a rural life museum in Lancashire failed at least thirty years ago now. As the collections review rolls towards our rural and craft industry collections, and I am considering what to do with the entire contents of a blacksmiths or brush makers workshop, twelve different but essentially similar ploughs, and the endless catalogue of agricultural hand tools, I will at least have colleagues to call on.

Blacksmith displays at St Fagans

A new way of looking at blacksmiths?

Philip Butler – Curator Lancashire County Council

Before finding my ideal job as Curator of Industry and Technology for Lancashire County Council Museums Service I looked after industrial collections for Derby, Nottingham, and Wigan and managed a number of museum sites. Now I look after the Designated collection of the Lancashire textile industry including Helmshore Mills and Queen Street Mill textile museums, and the wider Lancashire collection. I also advise maritime museums at Fleetwood and Lancaster and the Ribble Steam Railway in Preston.


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Connecting to Collections

Delegates at the Reap the Rewards event in Wales explore St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff

Delegates at the Reap the Rewards event in Wales explore St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff

The Reap the Rewards programme is an amazing opportunity for individuals interested or involved in museum collections. Multiple venues throughout the country allows for a unique insight into regional variations on the theme of Agriculture and Rural Community. From water wheels to ploughs, education and policy to public venues and interpretative techniques, the programme offers a chance to network, ask questions, give feed-back and walk around museums across the UK.

Top Tips I have learnt from the seminar at St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff:

Tip 1
Questions and images can be asked via the Rural Museum Network’s web-based discussion group for help with artefact identification and best practices.

Tip 2
RMN membership offers access to multiple Distributed National Collections for museums to share resources such as artefacts like tractors and images and toolboxes for planning or collections care management.

Tip 3
Identify what your museum’s or collection’s relevance is. Having a game plan in place will limit the amount of miscellaneous artefacts you have and assist with resource allocation issues.

I greatly enjoyed being able to see an alternative way of presenting similar artefacts and interacting with other museum professionals. My favourite part was seeing the interactive interpretations for often-times boringly presented artefacts, such as baskets and textiles. I highly recommend attending the seminar in a location you are unfamiliar with and allowing yourself the time to see the site and surrounding countryside.

Tamisan Latherow is a PhD student at the University of Reading, she is researching women’s participation in agriculture and the rural community in Britain between 1920-1960 at the Museum of English Rural Life. Previously a living history teacher and demonstrator as well as archivist at Heritage Village Living History Museum in Largo, Florida, USA working with teenage docents.
Twitter @SeshatofMars

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“Windrows to the Past” – Reap the Rewards, South West

Exploring Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury, as part of the Reap the Rewards event

When I first heard about the RMN seminar, I saw it as an excellent opportunity to build relationships between rural museums and to discuss potential solutions to common challenges. I am a Collections Assistant at Dorset County Museum, so I was keen to understand how we could tap into the potential of our rural collection and how we could start considering a contemporary collecting policy relating to post-war rural life. This seminar also came at a fitting time; we are currently in the midst of a multi-million pound redevelopment project and our hosts, the Somerset Rural Life Museum, have recently undergone redevelopment themselves. I was particularly looking forward to seeing how they approached the display, storage and interpretation of their rural collections.

Open Doors

First impressions really do count, especially in heritage. Attracting visitors and making them feel welcome is important for building rapport and encouraging them to return, hopefully with friends and family. At Somerset, the front of house is situated within the old Abbey Farmhouse. Built in 1894 by the Austin family it was later occupied by the Mapstones, who farmed on the site through the Second World War. It was the centre of the dairy business as well as a family home. It would have welcomed many people through the threshold, just like the museum does today. A recent addition to the exterior, is a Lias flagstone, engraved with “Oh Mr and Missus are you there within, pray open the door and let us come in” a lovely nod to the old tradition of Wassailing and an acknowledgement of the role of the farmhouse to the community. Though it may seem a small thing, the significance of that front porch goes a long way – after all, it is the first, and last, place in the museum that visitors experience.

Open Display

Discovering the collections at Somerset Rural Life Museum

Beyond the orientation space are the farmhouse galleries. With themes inspired by a Kelly’s directory and situated in the old cowsheds, it seemed apt to walk through the industry of Somerset with most objects on open display. This format honours the long, hard outdoor lives that most of these objects experienced. Their robustness is such that they can be displayed without the enclosure of a case. Open display wall mounts create space, as there is little dependence on display cases. It also creates an atmosphere of trust between the visitor and curator. These objects have been wilfully and sensitively arranged, in the knowledge that they will be respected. This highlights the fact that rural collections offer a brilliant opportunity to invest in personal visitor experience. They are some of a select few objects that we can afford to have out on open display in museums, so it was inspiring to see Somerset adopting this approach.

Contemporary Collecting

Curating records and objects which give a voice to the lives before ours is a complex undertaking and thinking about how we represent contemporary agricultural history is quite a challenge. In the seminar we discussed both the relevance and difficulties of not only curating, but also obtaining, post-war agricultural equipment for exhibition. Are we at risk of missing stories and huge developments in technology by not adequately representing post-war agricultural development? A key quote I took away from this discussion, is that urban stories will be allowed to dominate, if we don’t maintain the relevance of rural collections. It is generally accepted that most agricultural equipment is too large for museums. It also comes at a huge expense to farmers and, as such, most equipment is worked into the ground. We also need to be aware of an increasing selection of progressive apps and record keeping techniques in agriculture, in addition to the objects themselves. This is an ongoing discussion, but one we need to keep having in order to establish a coherent, and consistent, collecting policy.


Being passionate about Dorset’s agricultural history, it was great to be part of a group who can advise, illustrate and connect with the themes of rural collections. I look forward to joining the network and learning more about rural collecting policies, outreach and public engagement. Rural collections, like most, do come with their challenges. Understanding how we can document and celebrate, rather than neglect, rural heritage will improve collection policy, care and interpretation. We can make these objects accessible to everyone, in the urban and rural environment alike. We have a great opportunity in the coming decade to utilise this network and work with the digital age, rather than against it, to keep important stories alive for future generations.

Kat Broomfield is Collections Assistant at Dorset County Museum

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Sowing the Seeds of Confidence at Reap the Rewards Yorkshire

The Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton Park

I attended the Reap the Rewards event at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton Park. It was a day that I had been looking forward to, as the field of rural collections isn’t something I have a specialist background in or feel particularly confident working with.

Yorkshire Museum of Farming and Murton Park

The day began with a tour of Murton Park’s enviable site. It is set in around sixteen acres, which gives them the space to have been able to build a Roman fort, Viking village and prehistoric settlement, as well as providing a home for a variety of livestock and an impressive collection of agricultural machinery. It is popular with schools and certainly the groups of small Vikings we encountered from time to time seemed to be enjoying themselves.

It really showed how valuable experiencing things first-hand can be, especially for children. Gathering around the fire in the Viking longhouse, or grinding corn in the village, brings the past to life in a way static displays simply aren’t able to.

Although most of us don’t have the luxury of Murton Park’s space and facilities, the curator, Mike Tyler, explained that several period rooms and a display of vintage washing machines have proved popular with visitors of all ages, often provoking conversation and discussion between the generations. This illustrates how it can often be possible to make the collection more relatable through fairly small and simple changes.

Rural Museums Network

In the afternoon we discussed a range of issues, including the pros and cons of recruiting volunteers, space and storage constraints and the problems involved in keeping rural collections relevant in a rapidly changing world. It was interesting to hear everyone’s ideas and opinions and to hear how other sites had attempted to solve or deal with these subjects.

The afternoon session also included an introduction to the Rural Museums Network from the RMN host, David Walker. Before attending this event, I wasn’t really aware of the network. I had vaguely heard of it, but no more than that. I now feel that I have more of an understanding of what the RMN is and what it does. It is good to know that there is such a rich resource of knowledge and experience out there to draw on if needed.

I found the day both valuable and enjoyable. It is always good to visit other sites and to meet people from different organisations, and it has certainly given me plenty to think about and some ideas for the future of our collection.

North Lincolnshire Museum Service

One of our sites, Normanby Hall, has an associated Farming Museum, which is being rebranded next year to become the Rural Life Museum. The Farming Museum has traditionally suffered from a lack of visitor numbers by comparison with the rest of the park. Part of the reason for this is thought to be that it simply doesn’t have the widespread interest or appeal of other areas, such as the Hall itself. After the session at Murton Park, I am more confident about tackling the task of trying to boost visitor numbers to the Farming Museum and of trying to make the experience of those visitors as enjoyable and relevant as possible.

I am a Collections Assistant at North Lincolnshire Museum. I mainly work with the archaeology, but I am currently responsible for the Social History collection while a colleague is on maternity leave.

Catherine Looser

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Taking the Aggravation out of Agricultural Collections!

Participants at the 'Reap the Rewards: Benefiting from Rural Networks' event explore Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, October 2019

Participants at the ‘Reap the Rewards: Benefiting from Rural Networks’ event explore Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, October 2019

At Staffordshire County Museum I find our collection of agricultural machinery and tools quite overwhelming. It’s not a subject area I feel confident in. Agriculture and farming is an important part of Staffordshire’s history, so it’s a key collection but the objects are often very large and difficult to display and interpret. Compared to other collections, they aren’t always visually interesting, and they can be difficult to relate to.

In October I took part in ‘Reap the Rewards: Benefiting from Rural Networks’ at Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings in Bromsgrove. It was a seminar for people working in museums with agricultural and rural collections. I went along to the session to meet others who were in a similar situation, to gain more knowledge on how to interpret and to find out more about the Rural Museum Network. Here are some things I learned on the day I’d like to share

1. Creating relevant rural experiences with your collection or site.

It doesn’t have to be standard display techniques, i.e. an object with a label, that gets people interested in rural activities and objects. Nick Sturgess, Head of Collections & Interpretation at Avoncroft explained how rather than just showing visitors the process of milling and explaining how it works, the visitors can taste bread made from flour that has been milled there, which additionally provides them with extra income as they then sell the flour in the museum shop.

What I hadn’t realised is there is always a way to relate your agricultural object to visitors’ everyday lives, whether that is food production, animals, workers rights etc. And a sensory experience is even better because it is something that will stay with them longer.

2. Multi layered labels

An example of a multi layered label at Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings

Usually when writing object labels, we are told that less is more, we don’t want to fatigue visitors with lots of text. Just 50 words will usually suffice when creating text for an object.

Simon Carter, the Director at Avoncroft explained that more substantial labels are actually a blessing with these types of collections and showed us an example that they have installed around the site at Avoncroft. The label briefly explained where the building came from, what it was and what it was used for but then it was split into three colour coded sections; People, History and Rescue. It was a way of appeasing different types of visitors, not alienating the specialists and enthusiasts and including the average visitor who might be more interested in the people that used the building than how it was built or rescued.

By creating themes within your labels, visitors can easily pick what is most interesting to them and choose what they read about.

3. Learning about the RMN

In the afternoon we discussed our issues within our own collections and what the Rural Museum Network could do to help. The topic of storage came up as its often hardier rural collections that have the worst storage, with objects often being left in sheds or even outside exposed to the elements, but also admitting that’s ok as long as there is a plan in place. Museums don’t have the resources to deal with everything! The Lace Guild explained the difficulty in recruiting new members and expertise dying out in the field, they talked about diversifying their activities and collections to make them more accessible to younger people, with things like yarn bombing which is a fairly new phenomenon and fits in with the protest culture that is popular at the moment, especially with young people. RMN host Chris Copp addressed these issues and talked about what the aims of the network were including ideas for a distributed national collection.

This part of the seminar showed me that whatever you’re grappling with, collections-wise, in your museum, the specialist networks are a great source of knowledge and are there to help.

All in all, I really enjoyed the session at Avoncroft. It is always good to get outside your own collection and draw inspiration from another organisation. I felt that the session not only allowed me to network with other museum professionals, but I found that the solutions are often much simpler than I had imagined. Avoncroft is a prime example of using every resource you have available and being innovative can be as simple as changing your object labels. In the afternoon I found out more about the Rural Museums Network and how it can assist me in the future when working with the agricultural collections. The idea of the distributed national collection is an idea I had vaguely heard before, but it was great to be involved in discussing its potential and to hear from people who have been working on it.

I am the Collections Assistant at Staffordshire Archives and Heritage. I studied at University of Leicester, History of Art and Art Museum and Gallery Studies MA but have worked mostly with social history collections. In Staffordshire I have recently been involved in moving the collection into new stores, this has made me confront our large agricultural collection which in the past has garnered less attention than other subject areas in the museum.

Melanie Williamson


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Save the date! 2019 Annual Seminar & AGM

Save the date! The annual seminar of the Rural Museums Network will take place on Sunday 6th and Monday 7th October 2019 at Beamish, the Living Museum of the North in County Durham.

Join us on Sunday 6th October and experience Beamish’s ‘Power from the Past’ event. This is a great chance to see the museum’s impressive collection of steam and road transport in action, as well as some visiting vehicles.

Meet the Beamish team and fellow Rural Museums Network members to find out more about Beamish’s working collections and events programme. Power from the Past runs from 10am to 5pm.

For those staying locally, on Sunday evening there will be the chance to meet more RMN members for an informal dinner or drinks.

On Monday 7th October, we’ll continue the discussions. A brief AGM will be followed by a day of seminars and tours exploring new developments at Beamish. During the day there will be the chance to discuss the impact of this work and lessons learned with the wider project team.

We very much hope that you’ll be able to join us for one or both days. Further information will be available in the next few weeks, together with details on how to book. In the meantime, please do save the date!

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Understanding Rural Networks – Freelance project opportunity

The Rural Museums Network (RMN) is delighted to have been awarded funding from Arts Council England’s Subject Specialist Network Fund to deliver the ‘Understanding Rural Networks’ project.

RMN is seeking to engage a freelance worker to help deliver a programme of regional-wide events that help non-specialist curators and general managers of heritage sites looking after rural and agricultural collections to develop, maintain and share expertise associated with these specialist collections, and also to celebrate their contribution to public engagement, education and enjoyment by providing ways of interpreting these collections more effectively through better use of objects and more engaging story-telling.

The ideal candidate will have experience in planning, administering and delivering events and activities, have experience of working in the cultural or heritage sector, and should be experienced in evaluating projects and writing reports.


Project Support Worker,  Rural Museums Network

Job Type: Contract

Contract Type: Freelance, 20 days (maximum)

Fee: £4,000 (maximum)

Project timeline: April 2019 – March 2020


  • To organise 10 regional events.  This will include:
    • Booking venues
    • managing catering arrangements
    • booking speakers and facilitators
    • marketing events
    • administering a travel bursary scheme
    • ensuring necessary resources are available at venues
  • To provide information on where collections, knowledge and expertise can be found.
  • To produce a draft report on location of collections and collections expertise
  • To produce a map of where collections are located.
  • To collect evidence to support final project evaluation

How to apply

  • Submit your CV and portfolio to
  • All applications must be submitted by 9am, Monday 15th April 2019.
  • Candidates will be shortlisted and there will be a telephone interview.  Criteria for shortlisting will be based on relevant experience, quality and price.
  • Interviews will take place w/c  15th April 2019

We look forward to hearing from you.

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