Working creatively with communities in Cambridgeshire to explore the extraordinary collection of objects and stories displayed in the Addenbrooke’s Museum
Addenbrooke’s was established thanks to a gift of £4,676 Dr John Addenbrooke left in his Will to “hire and fit up, purchase or erect a small, physical hospital in the town of Cambridge for poor people’. Originally housing just 20 beds when it opened in 1766, today’s hospital has over 1,000.
As part of their 250th birthday celebrations, the hospital opened a new museum in October 2016. In the main corridor of the hospital, it houses a collection of just some of the extraordinary objects and stories stored in the archive.
Working with CCI has given me the opportunity to bring to light some of these objects and stories that have been ‘hidden’ for so long and to use them to illustrate the past of the hospital.
Hilary Ritchie, Hospital Archivist
CCI visual artist theatre-maker Sally Todd worked with people of all ages during 2016/17 to animate the museum, inviting different groups to play creatively with ideas and provocations inspired by the collection.
Groups involved include two supported by Caring Together – young carers in the county and people living with dementia and their carers – and a class of children from both St Philip's and Queen Edith’s Primary Schools. Each project had a different creative focus – poetry, story-making and sculpture - and Sally was joined by poet Jane Monson, fellow theatre-maker Steve Tiplady and sculptor Jenny Goater to support these.
I will remember how thirsty the children are for more art. I always try to get it in to lessons but this project brought back to me the need to keep things creative, the different ways that can hook the children in and engage them. I really noticed that for all of them.
It was really important that they had the chance to come to the hospital. I could see how they kept reaching back and bringing knowledge from their first trip to the museum at the hospital into everything they did with you afterwards. I learned a lot about the history of Addenbroooke’s too.
Tasha Bowen, Queen Edith’s Primary School
I’m absolutely useless at making things but even being useless you can still enjoy it…it was very very relaxing. We were working together and having a laugh. I was caring for 25 years and have been coming to groups since 2003 and I enjoyed these story making sessions more than any others I’ve been do. Everybody joined in. The sessions reminded me of good things and fun days….just a few minutes where your mind isn’t thinking about the other person is better than 40 winks. You want to wash away some of those worries.
We do need useful information sessions too but you can’t lose yourself in a talk from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Richard, Shelford Dementia Carers Group
I was with my Mum and Dad. None of us are artistic and we were all a little bit apprehensive but we all got into it. Mum was making stuff and she didn’t worry if it wasn’t brilliant. It didn’t matter what you were making … you were talking and doing what you felt like doing and everyone was laughing.
The story was great – everyone was a roaring because it was just very fun. Allowing everyone to say whatever they want, generally ridiculous things, and then being able to put it into a story and go with it bought the whole group together.
Theresa, Shelford Dementia Carers Group
Posts below share a flavour of these projects. Two exhibitions of work created during these workshops have been curated for the hospital. Importantly archivist Hilary Ritchie has kept many of the elements created by the groups, preserving them as permanent contributions to the archive.