The team behind Plymouth’s Box project have been outlining plans to inspire and involve the city’s residents in history and culture – far beyond the walls of the Box.
Members of one of the Council’s key scrutiny committees toured the construction site on North Hill to get a progress report on the hugely ambitious project which is due to open next year.
As well as touring the site – which has come on in leaps and bounds – they were given detail of plans for how families, schools, young people and communities will form a core part of The Box’s audience.
A fantastic families’ programme is being developed with gallery trails, workshops, parent and toddler sessions, all aimed at making sure the Box is the go-to destination for families.
The schools programme is being drawn up with support from teacher ambassadors at 30 Plymouth schools and sessions are being structured around Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – in keeping with the Plymouth’s STEM strategy – as well as art, history and geography. Online resources are part of the package and 22 loan boxes covering topics from mummification to African instruments will be available.
The community learning programme will build on the phenomenal – and often moving work – that has been going on in Plymouth’s neighbourhoods. Residents in care homes, for example, have been getting their teeth into the ‘Your recipes, Your heritage’ project, reminiscing about Spam and rationing and who could forget the inspiring ‘Blast from the Pasties’ event at the Moments café in the city centre, where pasty power got people talking, tasting and crimping their pasties to perfection. The project aims to tackle social isolation and bring people together to share meals and stories.
Councillor Leader Tudor Evans said: “It’s so important that everyone in this city feels the Box is something for them. That’s why so much effort is being put into making sure people feel connected and part of this.
“There are so many examples: awesome projects drawing out people’s memories so that they can tell us their part in Plymouth’s history. We’ve got people with dementia and their carers having great fun making ceramic figureheads in the inspiring ‘Arts and Minds’ workshops. We always envisaged the Box being about so more than just a building, so much more than a museum. We want it to become the city’s cultural heart.”
The massive ‘Box On Tour’ programme has been going on for almost three years engaging communities across the city and beyond. So far it has engaged with 114,500 individuals alone during 2017/18 and has reached a similar figure for 2018/19. Some key highlights includes working with 64 volunteers who have provided a total of 694.7 days; an award for ‘Best Community Engagement’ and ‘Best Overall Archive’ by the National Community Archives and Heritage Group for Maker Memories – the project about Maker Camp in South East Cornwall.
The visitors were also given an update on construction. The exterior refurbishment of the old museum building is complete as well as the striking cantilevered section which will house the city’s archives and collections – all one million objects. Many of the permanent galleries that will showcase the city’s amazing art, natural history, human history, media, photographic and archive collections are nearly ready for fit out.
Behind the scenes staff are preparing to move objects, images, archival materials and works of art that will move on to the site during the autumn/winter.
The committee members heard about the challenges of the Reload, the project to move over a million items from nine different locations around the city into the Box. It’s not just a case of packing and unpacking artefacts. Systems, including IT, that support these collections have to be dismantled. Every object has to be tracked and accounted for – a systematic move that is being planned like a military operation.
A comprehensive plan for opening has been drawn up to bring visitors flocking to the Box, as well as ensuring all aspects of the venue’s operation, from catering to security, are good to go.
Deputy leader Pete Smith added: “It was great to be able to show members of the Scrutiny Committee and around and to see the scale of the task. It’s mindboggling and the preparation and thought going into every strand of this project is really impressive.
“Everyone’s working their socks off to design a visitor attraction with international appeal, but I’m really pleased with the work of the Box team to reach out to our residents, get them to share their stories and feel part of this exciting journey.”
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