I walked through bitterly cold winds and rain to find out more about searching for a subject to research during the Citizen Curators course. Duncan suggested I go to the shelves full of Zodiac magazines from the early 1900s until the college closed.
The college reopened in Porthcurno in July 1950 so I started looking through the 1950s and some 1951 magazines. They were full of news about Cable and Wireless employees working all over the world. There were also listings of Births, Marriages and Deaths. I was curious about the cause of death as there were many very young deaths recorded but few causes mentioned. I noted that one died ‘after an operation’ and another was a ‘sudden death’.
I’d been told previously that there were some medical records available in the archives. These are very sensitive documents since the people they refer to may have relatives living. I was warned that I must act with utmost discretion and on no account should I should not mention any names if I use any of the information in these documents in my research project. I’m looking forward to discovering these documents when I go to the museum again next week.
On a lighter note, several adverts extolling the advantages of biscuits amused me!
The second session of the Citizen Curators programme was about discovering resources for research and how to use them. We met in the grand Council chamber in Falmouth. Tehmina Goskar reminded us about using open questions when researching our chosen topic. We discussed how biased some information we discover might be, even though people trust museums. The content may relate to the power of those contributing to the museum.
There are many resources to use for research but it’s important to use these with a critical eye.
Although at this stage I want to find out more about the health and wellbeing of the people who came from all parts of the world to learn about telegraphy in Porthcurno, I am also interested in the changing diversity in tourists who visit the area. Porthcurno was multicultural when it was a college. Then the area became mono-cultural until in the past few years, visitors have changed and the area has become multicultural once more during the holiday times.
Today was the first study day to take part in the Citizen Curator Course. Just two of us from the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. Others were from Penlee House, Falmouth Art Gallery, and Helston Museum of Cornish life.
It was a very interesting day. We discussed what a curator does and what is the purpose of museums. We read some very wordy descriptions and realised that museums may have differing agendas from being a meeting place and for storing the spoils of war and to keep memories of other times. They may be very narrow in what they portray about a community. These days there is more emphasis on discovering varying meanings and recognising the diversity of communities.
Later we saw how to treat artefacts carefully and, except for paper, to wear gloves when handling objects that might spoil from touching them directly. A discussion about what can damage artefacts such as light, dust, insects and mould followed this.
There was time for a warm drink:
We will make time before the next meeting to visit our museum and think about what sort of project to work on.
I’m interested in the diversity of people who came to learn at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and would like to find out more about their general health and illness they suffered while in Porthcurno.