An interesting and thought-provoking session in Falmouth. We discussed what is a community; communities: those we belong to and the communities that Museums are for and those communities that are excluded from visiting Museums.
We listed communities such as work-based sports, those with similar life experiences, and more. Then we discussed some who might be excluded from museums perhaps because of their perception of who Museums are for, access challenges, or language.
Most Museums in Cornwall do not cater enough for locals rather than tourists because they are expensive and are closed during the winter. They do not recognise many people in Cornwall who have a visual impairment or are blind or those that use a wheelchair and those with neuro-diversity.
It was interesting to realise that after English the most spoken languages in Cornwall are Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese because of the reliance of the agricultural sector on those who come to work in Cornwall. Yet there is little representation of this in our Museums.
There are many untold stories: such as the story of illness in students who came to Porthcurno and were sent all over the world to work and train others in telegraphy.
A few days ago we (myself and the other citizen curators based in Porthcurno Museum ) met with Tehmina to discuss our progress or lack of it! It was very useful to hear what each of us was exploring and to hear some feedback too. A big challenge is keeping the project do-able within the next couple of months.
I’m gathering somewhat random information about illness and have found some interesting things from the archives, including the book given to those about to go abroad for the college:
Also, the Facebook group: PK Remembered has provided me with several useful pieces of information and anecdotes.
At the meeting, we also discussed making a short video and I feel not only more positive about this but also want to make this myself using iMovie, (or at least have a go at doing so!)
I discovered a public group on Facebook called PK remembered. It’s a group for all those who were at Porthcurno(PK) for whatever reason during the Cable and Wireless Telecommunication P.K. College occupation.
I contacted several people from the site via messenger with the following message:
I found your name on Facebook and as you commented on a post in the PK remembered Group. I wonder if you have some personal stories you would be willing to share?
Would you, or someone you could refer me to, help me with a project with which I’m involved.
This programme enables volunteers attached not only to Porthcurno but to several museums in Cornwall, to learn about museums and how they reflect life in Cornwall. By the end of the six months, we are expected to produce some information about the museum or local community and produce a short video about what we discover.
As a retired doctor, I am interested in the health and well-being and illnesses of the students who came to Porthcurno to study and of the people sent overseas to work for the company. However, there is very little information the archives about these things so I’m hoping to find a few people willing to share their experiences.
Can you help me? I’m interested in anecdotes and information such as:
what illnesses people had while they were students in Porthcurno?
who treated them?
What did people die from?
What advice did people travelling overseas receive about illness?
Anything else in relation to illness and medical services that you have heard about
If you or someone close to you was a student at the college in Porthcurno – please share a few memories!
I also added a survey on the group and 17 people responded.
Can you help by answering a few questions about your time at Porthcurno?
I set out to look around the Museum in case there are any displays relevant to my project. Also wanted to buy a copy of the book I could not take home to read over the holiday week. There are copies for sale in the shop I was told. A closed museum greeted me despite the facebook page saying museum open now.
I was not the only disappointed visitor: A couple was there too. They had driven from the Midlands especially to visit the Museum and had never been there before.
I searched Facebook and found a public group called PK Remembered and have contacted several of the people posting there. Some have already responded with names and memories of their time in Porthcurno. So I’m feeling more hopeful now about the project.
I’ve learned that there was a college nurse. There were many cases of measles in the 1970s (that would be before they gave the MMR jab).
My aim in the new year is to talk to at least 2 people who were at the college and still come to work or volunteer there. Also, speak to two friends whose fathers were at the college.
I’m finding that learning about the social history of PK is very interesting – my challenge is to keep the information I gather connected and relevant and contained in a short video!
I went into the Museum a few days ago and chatted with two other Citizen curators about a possible project and how to proceed. I feel as though I’ve reached a blank wall as far as my desired project to find out about the health and wellbeing of the students at the college in Porthcurno.
I looked for interesting articles so wondered about finding a few anecdotes in relation to health as my project. Something that frustrates me is that I’m spending hours looking at the interesting but random text. For a video, I need images but not finding them. I asked Duncan what the process is for storing any information for my project but he wasn’t very helpful. He suggested I note where the information is so I could go back to it. Then the question of audio: he said I need to write a script. I took some photos of articles on my phone.
This lady came with her husband from Fiji. She cooked delicious curries so soon cooked for many other students in Porthcurno who missed their native food.
This lady had a grant from the college for plastic surgery to repair her damaged nose a dog had bitten.
The other students and Mary, a former director of the Museum who was visiting that afternoon were all very helpful with suggestions about contacting some older volunteers and asking for stories of their time as students at the college.
Mary showed me a book ‘Voices Over the Horizon’ that she thought might be useful. It’s full of stories from people who were at the college at Porthcurno. Mary thought there were lots of copies I would love to read it but was told I would have to read it when in the building and I am not allowed to borrow it to read at home. More frustration. I went back the next day but was again told that I could not take it home.
However, the museum shop is open tomorrow so I plan to buy it there.
There are so many interesting possibilities for research but the challenge is to home into a tiny aspect of the subject as there are only 3 months left and it is not research for a master’s degree.
I went to the Porthcurno Museum today to continue searching for information about the subjects that interest me., bearing in mind that there are only a few months left before the citizens’ curator scheme ends and as yet I haven’t decided what I’ll make a short video presentation about.
I hadn’t got very far in trying to discover something about illnesses. Then I mentioned that I’d noticed in the 1950 Zodiac there seemed to be numerous early deaths and I wondered if it was possible to find out what the cause of death might be, Alan found some information about those that worked in cable and wireless. Unfortunately, this also came to a dead end.
What I’d really like to to do is something about Porthcurno.
There is very little info about the social life in Porthcurno.
I decide I must search online and at home to find a few snippets. I’m waiting for the inspiration to hit me.
Also was taken to see the object store: a huge room with many shelves full of out of date equipment.
Maybe photos of women as portrayed in the Zodiac magazine over several decades would be a good visual project.
The session today -December 2, 2019), was in a cold Penlee Coach house. Keeping warm by hugging a cup of tea, it amazed me at the progress that some Citizen Curators had made in investigating their project. After several sessions thumbing through copies of Zodiac magazines without finding out much about what I was interested in I concluded that I need to define something associated
with objects and or photographs. At the moment this seems like a massive challenge. I’ve noticed in the magazines that there are listings of births marriages and deaths that there seem to be many very young deaths with no reason given for these. Objects? On Wednesday I’ll search for medical equipment in the catalogue.
The session was a lot about communication and how museums communicate with visitors. Is there a two-way communication? Objects that aren’t labelled may communicate memories. How could museums communicate more effectively? Sometimes they can do so more if away from a museum building: perhaps via social media, exhibitions and events in places away from the museum building may engage with more people.
At the end of the citizen curator programme, I have to present something in as a video. So whatever I decide on will need to be something to present visually. It could be me giving a short talk or, preferably, narrating a series of photographs. I’m browsing through Zodiac but I’m puzzled about how to present my findings. The other challenge is the subject I choose that must be small enough to research in the next few months, yet not so large that it would be more suitable for a Master’s degree!
A Cable and Wireless employee in Hong Kong treated a colleague with Chinese medicine:
I’m still interested in finding out about health and illness. I will think of some keywords to search when I go to the museum next week.
Alternatively, I could pick one issue of the Zodiac magazine and present ‘A year in the life of Cable and Wireless. I like the year 1953. Sports in Porthcurno 1953: the ladies line up for the egg and spoon race.
I continued looking through the 1950s Cable and Wireless magazine:
There is usually a women’s page: extolling the virtues of making the small meat ration last for several days, or how to be more glamorous. Most issues of Zodiac advertise the value of biscuits.
However my quest this week was to explore medical records. I started with a large leger – one of several, from the archives. It was full of handwritten almost illegible medical notes. Each page had a number and the name of the employee and notes about their medical condition. All the pages I read referred to male employees of the company working in various parts of the world returning to London for their medical check-ups in the 1920s to 1940s. There would not have been the medical tests nor medication available that we have today. The entries noted the man’s weight, and this seemed to be a useful measure of how well or ill he was. There were references to diabetes, renal stones and urinary infections. I wanted to gain a general impression but next time I will make more extensive notes about the medical conditions mentioned. I also plan to search the database to discover if there are more references to the health and wellbeing of the employees. My search will include looking for references to preparing employees for travelling to countries with very little medical cover.