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Stories of the World: Incorporating both old and new objects into an exhibition

  • Date: 25 November 2011
  • Artform: Museums
  • Area: North
A group of young people Some of the participants in the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum's Stories of the World project


The Stories of the World programme is led by Arts Council England and is part of the Cultural Olympiad. It works with 60 museums across the country.

Stories of the World gets young people working with curators, film makers, artists, writers and musicians to explore and reinterpret museum collections, giving us a new perspective on the stories that tell us about our place in the world.

The programme supports museums to change the way they work with young people and their wider communities, driving a process of organisational change to develop participatory approaches to decision making and strategic planning.

At the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum young participants from Prince's Trust created work inspired by objects from the collection. The modern and historic objects were then exhibited side by side.

Main challenges/opportunities and how they were tackled

Since 2009, young Teessiders have been engaging with the North East's ethnographic collections and have been responding both interactively and creatively. Such responses, with source community support, have resulted in a variety of "new creations" including carving, mosaics, costume, drama and dance.

The young people's final exhibition will take you on a Journey of Discovery around the world to the countries visited by Captain Cook. They are keen to include their new creations in their exhibition amongst the older ethnographic objects of inspiration already in the museum's collection.

Through creating their own objects, the young people are able to appreciate first hand different elements of various cultures. Through creating replica costumes, for example, they are able to familiarise themselves with specific techniques involved with their creation.

Young people are being made to feel integral to the museum's collecting policy as the objects being created will be accessioned into the museum's collections. This will show young people the processes involved with building collections, and it will ensure that the young people's creations are valued as museum artefacts.


As a result the museum has been able to enhance young people's perceptions of world cultures. First hand interactions have given the young people, including those not normally engaged by museums, a voice with which to interact with both the museum and a variety of source communities.

Feedback to the young people on the whole has been extremely positive, including that from trainer, Bernadette Lynch on a residential in October 2011 who stated,

 "What a difference it makes when you're actually making something -it's a brilliant way of being really involved from beginning to end" 

The young people have ownership of their exhibition from the outset. They are given a focus  when they are accessing the museums collections and were all keen to generate links with source communities to further develop knowledge and understanding.

The young people feel really excited that their exhibition will include an element of their own work and they feel this will attract new museum visitors. They are developing an appreciation that these cultures are still thriving today. They have a sense of ownership of the new objects that they have created, and they have a distinct insight of these cultures which they are eager to display in their final exhibition.

Lessons learned

What went well

  • Young people's enthusiasm and their ability to quickly comprehend the principles of different cultures.
  • Young people's appreciation and understanding that these cultures are still thriving today will be clearly shown in the exhibition by displaying old and new objects together.
  • Creation of objects has given a lead into productive dialogue with source communities.
  • They have responded well to the value that museums have put on the new objects, and they have come to appreciate that all objects young and old have a story to tell.

What went less well

  • It is important to continually interact with the source communities to ensure that there is no conflict between the old and new objects. For example the new storytelling area conflicts with Maori culture as it is not permitted to sit on the carved Maori faces on the stools. It is vital to maintain the conversation with the source communities at this stage to ensure appropriate presentation of all objects.