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Stories of the World: Who Stole My Milk? Exploring Student Homes in London

  • Date: 16 October 2012
  • Artform: Museums
  • Area: London
Group of students standing in the gardens of the Geffrye Museum MA students from UCL's Institute of Archaeology partnered with the Geffrye Museum for Stories of the World, © Geffrye Museum

MA students from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, talk about Who Stole My Milk? Exploring Student Homes in London, an exhibition and research project developed in collaboration with the Geffrye Museum for Stories of the World, one of our major London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programmes. 

Background

We collaborated with museum staff at the Geffrye Museum in London to produce an exhibition and learning resources around our project Who Stole My Milk? Exploring Student Homes in London.

This was part of Stories of the World, a nationwide London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme which partnered young people with museums to bring collections and archives to live by curating new exhibitions and interactive and participatory projects.

Stories of the World was led by Arts Council England in partnership with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

Objectives

Who Stole My Milk? aimed to provide a better understanding of London's student homes in 2012 as shared spaces serving as arenas for conflict, compromise, friendship, and international fusion.

Our group of 23 students split into teams working with Geffrye staff to develop:

  • The Who Stole My Milk? exhibition (May to September 2012)
    We documented four different households, using research methods such as film, photography, sound recordings and floor plan drawings, from which exhibition content was selected and also accessioned into the collection. 
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  • Web Resources
    Social media and blogs promoted the project, and we created permanent online resources for the Geffrye website: an interactive floor plan highlighting objects found within a student home and a digital story.  
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  • Family Days and an Adult Open Evening (May 2012)
    We developed an event programme highlighting cultures from around the world whose influence is visible in the Geffrye's collection. The aim was to engage visitors with the Geffrye's At Home with the World exhibition and Stories of the World programming.
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    Main challenges and how they were tackled

    Over the course of the project, our student group did face some challenges which were ultimately overcome. Communication difficulties occurred, as non-native English speakers occasionally faced hurdles in communicating with the group as easily as those with English as a first language, and thus effectively expressing their ideas. This was mediated by these students asking for and being offered support from native English-speaker team members. Moreover, as the project was collaborative in nature, issues arose when teams relied on other teams for pieces of information or project output. We dealt with these issues through adaptation of timetables and plans.

    Outcomes of the project

    Our project contested stereotypical perceptions of the student home by communicating a unique perspective into the identity formation, international fusion and cultural exchange that occurs in student homes in London.

    Using audience research as the basis for development we attracted a new demographic of 16-25 year olds to both Who Stole My Milk? and future Geffrye projects.

    By May 2012:

    • 400 visitors had attended the Geffrye Family Days in April
    • 300 people had contributed to the audience research
    • 1,500 postcards publicising Who Stole My Milk? had been produced and distributed

    By the end of the project in September 2012:

    • 39,867 visitors had toured the Who Stole My Milk? exhibition
    • Approximately 1,113 website viewers visited our online resource pages
    • 375 items of archive material had been accessioned into the collection

    Collaborating with Geffrye staff gave us the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge of museum practice into a practical museum context. We achieved this through hands-on experience while engaging in coursework for our module. We also developed practical project management skills which will prove invaluable as we pursue our own careers in the sector.

    The project was valuable for both the Geffrye and our student group. The museum gained additional manpower, reached new audiences, received new ideas and primary research as well as a fresh perspective from the students. Our student group gained not only practical skills and a greater insight into international students' homes, but the opportunity to participate in a high-profile, nationwide initiative - Stories of the World - at a time when the UK was in the global spotlight.