Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives has been highly commended at the 10th Museum and Heritage Awards for making local history accessible and interesting for young people in Northumberland.
It received the commendation for its work with Time Travel Northumberland, a youth participation project linked to the Cultural Olympiad and the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The Ashington museum was shortlisted in the Best Educational Initiative category.
Time Travel Northumberland is a partnership project delivered by Woodhorn Museum with support from the Northumberland Youth Service. It is funded by NE-Generation, the Legacy Trust UK regional programme, creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by funding ideas and local talent to inspire creativity across the UK.
Woodhorn narrowly lost out to Historic Royal Palaces and Hampton Court Palace for the overall award. However, the judges felt very strongly about the museum’s achievement and so gave Woodhorn a joint Highly Commended alongside The Science Museum.
Woodhorn placed ahead of The National Archives and Epping Forest’s Open Spaces project at the awards ceremony in London last month and received its award from comedian Sue Perkins.
Juliet Hardy of Woodhorn Museum is creative mentor and project coordinator for Time Travel Northumberland, she said: “This recognition is fantastic for the museum and for the young people who took part and is richly deserved.
We used our archive and local history to engage and inspire the group but it was their vision and energy which turned ideas into a living reality. History is a powerful learning tool and it is so rewarding to see Northumberland people and Woodhorn Museum recognised on the national stage.”
The commendation completes a hat-trick of honours for Woodhorn and Time Travel Northumberland in the last year. It collected a Truth About Youth PoSBO (Positive Social Behaviour Order) award and a Northumberland’s Finest Award in 2011.
The project was set up in May 2010 by Woodhorn and the Northumberland Youth Service which supported the initiative by recruiting young people who came up with the time traveler idea.
Since then, Time Travel Northumberland has been delivering creative cultural activities inspired by the Northumberland archives lead by young people for young people, including Heritage Big Brother, a time travel idea that was highly regarded by the awards judges.
1840s Big Brother was an immersive experience that transported 35 teenagers back in time to spend four days living in Northumberland’s Featherstone Castle, dressing, working and living as their ancestors would have done 170 years ago.
Stripped of phones, ipods and hair straighteners their only contact with technology was the film crew and the youth planning team documenting the experience.
Ashley Brown, senior youth worker at the Northumberland Youth Service, said: “What we have seen throughout the life of this project is a special transformation in the young people who took part.
“They have grown and seized the opportunities the project has offered to them to become resourceful, articulate, intelligent and compassionate people. They are a credit to themselves and to Northumberland.”
The young time travellers are working towards a series of major public events this summer which celebrate and mark the Cultural Olympiad linked to the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Time Travel Northumberland will again host Heritage Big Brother in August. It will take the group back in time to the 1940s and war-time England. They will have to live with food and clothing, rationing, a constant threat of bombing, invasion, along with the domestic and cultural activities of the time.
The young people who came up with 1940s Heritage Big Brother are also involved in planning the first re-enactment of The Morpeth Olympics – a professional games involving mainly athletics and wrestling – since the event ended in 1958.”
Ben Ayrton, programme manager for NE-Generation, said: “Time Travel Northumberland shows that it is possible for the North East’s cultural sector to work with young people to achieve something remarkable and create a lasting cultural legacy. This project shows what can be achieved when we have trust and put young minds at the heart of cultural activity.”