Gateways supported local A Level students to research the history of Canterbury during the First World War and devise an exhibition to showcase their findings at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge between 10th October and 9th November 2014.
During 2013-2014 Sixth Formers of the Simon Langton Grammar Schools for Boys and Girls carried out research on the impact of the First World War on Canterbury, investigating the experiences of local people who joined the armed forces as well as 'home front' life in the city. Supervised by University of Kent volunteers, the students undertook their own archival work, examining records such as local newspapers, collections of letters and diaries, posters and photographs, and material culture such as medals, badges and souvenir mementoes. Group visits were undertaken to the Beaney, Canterbury Cathedral archives, Kent History & Library Centre and the Royal Engineers Museum. Artist and curator Patricia Wilson Smith worked with the students to enable them to develop ways of showcasing their research effectively. Together they devised a narrative framework to tell Canterbury’s wartime story, selected the materials and formulated their presentation.
The project allowed the students to gain knowledge of local history and heritage and to develop presentational, exhibition and research skills. They were able to utilise much material that has not been publicly displayed for many years, thus leaving the local heritage record better interpreted and explained. Materials left in archival stores for long periods have been, quite literally in many cases, ‘dusted down’ and exhibited properly for the first time.
The initial research findings of the students were displayed at a 'taster' exhibition at the Gulbenkian, Canterbury, during summer 2014. The full exhibition was featured at the Beaney between October and November 2014.
Project devised by Dr Helen Brooks and Professor Mark Connelly.
Managed and organised by Dr Will Butler with the invaluable co-operation of Martin Crowther and Mitch Robertson of the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge and Patricia Wilson Smith. And with thanks to Dean Evans, Simon Langton Boys’ School and Kate Cameron-Fleming, Simon Langton Girls’ School.
The project team are extremely grateful for the financial assistance provided by the Kent Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities.