RMN’23 – In Your Words – Breathing new life into the Survey of English Dialect

To kick off the Spring 2023 Rural Voices Seminar Series, we were delighted to be joined by a fascinating panel of speakers to explore the topic of dialect.

The Dialect and Heritage Project is a national project based on a partnership between the University of Leeds and five member museums of the Rural Museums Network. Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the team had been taking dialect and heritage resources out of the archive and putting them back into the local communities where they truly belong.

At the same time, they had encouraged members of the public to share their present-day dialect with them. The project has tapped into massive public appetite for sharing dialect leading to huge media coverage.

In this session, participants were introduced to the rich dialect archives held at the University of Leeds, shown what the project has been up to and how we could all access the resources. It was great to also hear from museum partners about what they have got out of participating, and there were plenty of ideas and suggestions on where the team might head next.

The team at The Dales Countryside Museum also shared information on their Voices from the Dales podcast which is certainly worth a listen!

This session was hosted by Lisa Harris of the Food Museum, and speakers included Dr Fiona Douglas from the University of Leeds, Poppy Oldham and Fiona Rosher from Dales Countryside Museum, and Laura Kloss and Kate Knowlden from the Food Museum.

Lisa Harris is Collections and Interpretation Manager at the Food Museum in Stowmarket, Suffolk. She joined the museum in 2001 and has responsibility for c.40,000 objects, ranging from homewares to working steam traction engines.

She is currently leading the restoration of Alton Watermill to enable the story of ’seed to sandwich’ to be demonstrated (and tasted!) at the museum. Lisa studied History of Art at Stoke on Trent, and Museum Studies at Leicester. She has also worked at Ipswich Museums Service and Gainsborough’s House. @LisaMuseum

Dr Fiona Douglas is Associate Professor in English Language, University of Leeds and Project Lead for the Dialect and Heritage Project. She researches dialects of English (in England and Scotland) and the link between language and identity with a primary interest in dialect words and how they contribute to a sense of belonging.

Fiona Rosher works for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority as Museum Manager of the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. She has been in the museum profession since 1990, her first post being at the Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum. In 1993 Fiona was appointed to the newly created role of District Museum Officer for Richmondshire and Hambleton. She worked across two districts providing advice and support for independent and military museums. The enjoyment she found in working within a rural area led to her move in 1996 to the role of Curator at the Dales Countryside Museum. The Museum was at a point of significant change and Fiona has been involved in several major NHLF building, display and community engagement projects. Together with the DCM team she has introduced an events and temporary exhibitions programme and established a learning and engagement offer. She is keen to work in partnership with others to enable the Museum service to grow and to share the stories of the Dales in different ways, for different audiences. The partnership with Leeds University is a long standing one that has brought many mutual benefits.

Laura Kloss is the Learning Manager at the Food Museum and was one of the Engagement Officers for the Dialect and Heritage Project. She has a background in collaborative multi-media projects with young people in the museums and cultural sector formerly working for Chocolate Films, BAFTA, Curzon Cinemas, British Library, Imperial War Museum and Flatpack Film Festival.

Laura is also the founder of Lightbox Cinema producing events for young people which explore cinema heritage.

Kate Knowlden is the Curator at the Food Museum. She joined the museum in 2019 taking on the Search for the Stars digitisation project, managing 500+ volunteers to create an online catalogue of the museum’s 40,000 objects. She helps with the programme of temporary exhibitions and projects and took the museum on the road in 2022 as part of working in partnership with the University of Leeds and their Dialect and Heritage project. Kate studied Photography at the University of Brighton and then a Masters in Curation at Norwich University of the Arts.

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