A Community of Collectors

Leah Mellors, Collections Officer (Human History) tells us about the museum’s new community project:

“The project aims to explore the varied and wonderful collections of ordinary people in our local community. Participants in the project will be given the opportunity to learn about caring for, displaying and interpreting their collections, before creating their own displays in our next temporary exhibition. In total, there will be 12 participants with an incredibly varied range of collections, from army badges to pomanders to animal skulls.

“We held one-to-one sessions with two of our participants: Lowenna, who collects cat statues and ornaments, and Ruth, who brought in a collection of model aeroplanes made by her late husband. Lowenna spent a morning showing Gemma and I her collection of cats and told us the story of how the collection has grown, from the first seven cats she bought to a collection of over 100! A few days later, Ruth and I enjoyed a long chat about her husband’s collection and I learnt about how his collection is connected to his love of flying and RAF Debden.


“On Saturday, four of the participants came to the museum to take part in a group workshop. After initial introductions, the participants described their collections and shared the story of why they collect. There were fascinating insights into what inspired our participants to collect, with one of the participants, Judy, telling us that she collects poor man’s checks because nobody else does! It was lovely to hear the passion as the participants described their collections and to witness the camaraderie between them as they discovered a shared love of collecting.

“In the afternoon, I gave the participants a crash-course in writing exhibition text panels and labels, and showed them the exhibition space and display cases. The participants will install their own displays in August and they started to form ideas about how they might display their collections. Throughout the day, Gemma and Paul Louis Archer, a professional photographer, photographed the participants with their collections and recorded short interviews, which will be used in the exhibition or on our website.


“The day finished with a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum stores and a chat about the way museum staff care for collections to ensure they are preserved for the future.

“Collecting lies at the heart of our museum and it was fantastic to discuss and share a love of collecting with people from our local community. You can see their collections on display in the museum from 29 August 2015.”