Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums
This year we welcomed Sienna to our Arts Award programme. Sienna has already completed her Bronze and Silver award and is now working towards her Gold Arts Award with The Fitzwilliam Museum. Sienna is keen to broaden her knowledge of the arts and has already taken part in one of the University of Cambridge Museums’s Work Experience Taster Days. We look forward to supporting Sienna over the coming year. Here is her journey so far.
“Hello! I’m Sienna and I have recently started working on my Gold Arts Award connected to the Fitzwilliam Museum with Lucy Sercombe as my mentor. As a home-educated student, I’ve been lucky enough to spend time exploring my passions alongside studying for my regular subjects.
The Arts Award is split into two parts, and at the moment I’m working on the first. For this I must pick an art form I feel experienced and comfortable in, before choosing a new art form to explore. After studying and gaining experience in this new avenue, the aim will then be to produce a new piece of work in my former art form showing influence from my newly gained skills.
For years now, I have enjoyed creative writing as a hobby. I am also fascinated with certain periods of history so I chose writing historical fiction as my existing art form.
Choosing a new art form wasn’t as easy. I considered children’s book illustrations, play-writing and still-life painting. However, I finally decided on Living History – the wonderful art of historical interpretation and bringing history to life.
Ickworth House is my local National Trust property close to Bury St Edmunds. It is famed for its intricate Italianate gardens, striking Georgian architecture and hundreds of items collected from all over Europe by the disreputable Earl-Bishop. I had just started to volunteer for Ickworth’s brilliant Living History scheme when I decided to include the exciting experience as part of my award.
The basement in the house has been transformed into a hands-on and authentic 1930s servants’ quarters. This is where the re-enactments take place – with the stern housekeeper Mrs Seddons; the cooks baking scones and soup in the kitchen; Jim and Albert fixing the old boiler and the housemaids sweeping through the basement and polishing busts in the Pompeii corridor.
As the visitors pass through the stone-floored basement and up into the bright, airy halls of the house they experience the re-enactors gossiping and going about their business as domestic servants of 1935.
Each participant creates a personality with a name and character profile. To help me develop my character into a realistic 1930s housemaid, I decided to create a mood-board collage full of different drawings, pictures and text. Ava Robinson is originally from Batson in Devon but she and her two brothers moved to Suffolk after their parents’ death to find jobs. She enjoys sketching 1935 fashions, reading classic romance novels like Jane Eyre and taking strolls about the Ickworth estate in her spare time. I tried to make this board interesting and colourful, with different sections and drawings for each part of her personality. For example, I drew an authentic bicycle, imagining her riding about her childhood village of Batson.
Here is the end result of my mood board. It now hangs in a meeting room at Ickworth House:
I have yet to decide on my final piece for part one of the Arts Award. However, I’m considering writing a story about a servant from the Ickworth household. I have yet to decide which servant and from what perspective this story would be told – perhaps diary entries instead of third-person narration. I could then strengthen the diary entries by learning skills like authentic illustration and sewing techniques.
Another section in the award requires writing a debate on a current issue within the arts. Keeping with my theme of literature and writing, I decided I would research the issue of books vs eBooks. To do this, I compiled and sent a questionnaire out to my friends and family. I’ll then write-up my views on the issue.
To complete part one I am looking into volunteering and work experience placements. I have started to help prepare the Living History events at Ickworth, a role which I love, and recently I attended a Work Experience Taster Day at the Fitzwilliam Museum. This was fantastic fun as I met similar-minded people whilst gaining knowledge of different careers within the museum.
Hopefully I will be in touch again when my Arts Award has progressed further. For part two I need to prepare and coordinate a live event or exhibition. See you later!”
Lucy Sercombe, Learning Associate (Arts Award and Widening Participation), The Fitzwilliam Museum