Photo by Renata Tyszczuk
As a Masters’ student primarily focussed on modern American history I’d be lying if I said I’d imagined my course would lead me to Derby Museum and Art Gallery on a wet October morning. But there I found myself in a city I’d scarcely visited, despite being a native of neighbouring Nottingham, ready to join the Future Works project. I’m a fourth year student at the University of Sheffield studying, as mentioned, American history but attached to Future Works as part of a Work Placement module running throughout the year.
My brief is to explore the materials available at Derby and Matlock archives relating to energy and industry to produce an online resource available next year. My interests lie in the uses of the river and the societies and industries around it but the final product will inevitably be dependent on what I find in the depths of the archives so watch this space.
Approaching this project for the first time, as with so many similar endeavours, I was swamped in buzzwords: ‘interdisciplinary’, ‘community engagement’, ‘fresh approaches’ but any doubts I had from this standard issue of research projects were swept away after meeting those involved. It became clear very quickly that Future Works was the work of a group of creative and very enthusiastic people with a genuine desire to make a difference.
This first day was certainly a baptism of fire. I was quickly introduced to everyone involved and sat in on meetings covering the different strands of the project. Indeed at this stage, I’m still getting my head around all of the project’s aspects and what they involve. At the moment there’s a huge variety of separate sub-projects, detailed elsewhere on this blog, so I’ve been piecing together where how it all fits together. I’m sure this will become clearer as I delve into the project further. After an initial meeting with Nicola and Julia, I was introduced to Joe and Renata, and Jane from Smedley’s Mill and got a clearer idea what I was getting myself into. I got a glimpse of Bexie Bush’s fascinating stop-motion film ‘The Rumour Mill’, and excitingly may be asked to have a look at it again later on to get an outsiders’ opinion on it. After lunch we visited the Derby Silk Mill to have a chat with a group of University of Sheffield architecture students working on an innovative solution for visual storage at museums using inspiration from a child’s toy (because why not?).
Looking ahead in terms of my role within the project, I’ve been given a fair bit of freedom but something that jumped out immediately at me, something that Nicola was delighted about, was the mapping element. A childhood consisting of being dragged out of bed on Sunday mornings to go orienteering round various forests and bits of countryside will do that to you, I suppose. In the meantime however I’ve been assigned the task of trawling through some of the Derbyshire Council archives, looking to make sense of it all. Hopefully some of the findings will be mappable and I’ll be able to go into them in more detail either on this blog or at a Future Works event at some point in the future.