Stories from the Stores – your thoughts…

by Rachel Smith, Curator of Social History and World Cultures

I think it’s fair to say that a blog update is long overdue. However, I am very happy to be able to share you with some of the things that we learned from our exhibition last summer. Thank you very much to anyone who visited the exhibition and especially to those of you that took the time to come along to a focus group, fill in a questionnaire or take part in our Treasure or Trash interactive. We have learned a great deal and are now able to use what we have learned to improve the Social History collection.

We had hoped to get 350 completed questionnaires by the end of the exhibition, but due to the hard work of the gallery volunteers and the willingness of visitors to participate we managed to collect 432. Here are some of the interesting points that we learned:

  • 86% found the exhibition interesting
  • 85.5% liked the way it was displayed
  • 58% thought there was the right amount of interpretation while 39% said not enough
  • 85% said it made them want to visit a museum store
  • 49% said objects should be connected to Plymouth
  • In general visitors thought we ought to collect more toys, sports equipment and clothing
  • Favourite objects: pram, weapons, ovens, radios

Five focus groups were run by our Evaluation Consultant. Each group was asked what they liked about the exhibition and what they would like to see us collect more of in the future.

Young people liked that many artefacts had Plymouth stories and they liked that objects were grouped by type so that you could see a timeline of some items. They would like us to collect more domestic items, items made in Plymouth and gadgets, especially games consoles.

Retired people appreciated the minimal interpretation and the opportunity to think for themselves. They also liked that most items were in living memory. They would like us to collect objects relating to childcare and motherhood, hobbies and especially related to shopping.

Friends of PCMAG enjoyed the chance for visitors to talk to staff and the element of nostalgia – they thought it was fun to see every day items. They would like us to collect more objects related to local employers and transport, and especially kitchen equipment.

Traditional Crafts Group liked the feeling of being backstage. They were drawn to objects that reminded them of people, places or their own childhood.They want us to collect more packaging, domestic items, toys, and especially items connected to changing fashions.

Plymouth workers liked that the objects were themed, and also said it felt like a treasure hunt for children because you have to find things for yourself.They would like us to collect more objects related to Plymouth manufacturers, toys, farm equipment, and especially items to represent a 1950s Plymouth home.

Of 114 forms completed in the gallery a large majority were suggesting items of treasure. The most popular items were the prams, the ‘big gun’ (World War I anti-tank gun) and the doll’s house. The JFK’s disco sign, the barber’s chair and the Bush televisions were also well-liked. There were very few recommendations for trash: the plough was the only object to get more than one vote and that was because it stood out as a rural life object in amongst a mostly urban collection. Suggestions for what we ought to collect, or should have more of included technology (such as computers and phones), sports equipment (such as golf clubs and football kit) and toys and childhood related objects (such as school days and teddy bears).

I’ve just given a quick overview of the feedback we received, so as you can see we learned a great deal. We already refer to this feedback when we get offered objects for the Social History collection and it will be useful when we undertake reviews of different part of the collection. But the fun part will be to begin collecting some of the objects that you told us were missing from the collection.


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