Museum Manager at Wheal Martyn, Sue Ford

March 2020’s Ambassador of the Month: Sue Ford

This month we are celebrating Museums March at Cornwall 365 and so we’d like to welcome Sue Ford as our Cultural Ambassador. Sue is the Museum Manager at Wheal Martyn and we caught up with her to find out about Cornish heritage, engaging with new audiences and why museums are such important community spaces. Read on to find out more . . .

Q1. Please tell us about yourself and the work you do in Cornwall to promote heritage and culture:

I am the Museum Manager at Wheal Martyn Clayworks. We are an attraction on the outskirts of St Austell that tells the story of China Clay mining through the ages. We are based around two Victorian clay works with the working water wheels and settling tanks which shows how the clay was mined back in Victorian times. We offer an annual local’s pass for Cornwall residents to learn more about their heritage as well as various community groups to get people engaged with the clay mining heritage.

Water Wheel at Wheal Martyn
Q2. What role do museums play in communities and why are they so important?

I believe that museums should act as community hubs, where all members of the community feel confident and safe to voice their opinions and take ownership of the museum and its collections. For us, we are telling the story of an industry that shaped the landscape that we live in today as well as one that employed a large number of people in the area. It is really important to keep those stories alive and tell them to future generations and ensure that all visitors to Wheal Martyn have a fantastic museum experience

Q3. As a Museum Manager you have a strong focus on accessibility. How are you developing opportunities at Wheal Martyn?

At Wheal Martyn we have been working with partner organisations to seek expert advice and ensure our accessible information is easy to use. We are fortunate to be one of around twenty heritage destinations taking part in Heritage Ability’s, Heritage Lottery Funded project, which looks to improve accessibility and inclusivity in historical sites. Working in partnership with Heritage Ability, the museum now has a new Easy Read Guide making the site’s information easy to understand for those with learning difficulties, as well as a digital British Sign Language (BSL) tour of the site which can be viewed on YouTube or via a tablet at the museum.

Craft activity

Q4.What is your favourite object in the Wheal Martyn collection and why?

We have a diorama of a working claypit in the museum, which gives a really good insight into how the mining process worked back in the Victorian times. It is accessible for all and gives an idea of the scale of the working pits today (our site overlooks a working pit at the top but is a bit of a walk and that is not accessible to all).

Q5. How are you developing digital engagement for visitors at Wheal Martyn?

We are developing digital engagement through our Clay Stories on social media. One of our volunteers (Simon) researches our archives and shares information he finds. We also live stream large events such as our 2019 Light & Clay experience.*

*The Cornwall 365 What’s On team went along to this last year. You can read about our experience here.

Laser Clay Wheel

Q6. What’s next for Wheal Martyn in terms of future projects and events?

Here at Wheal Martyn we are about to complete our Clayworks! Project which has renovated a disused part of the Mica dry on site and provides us with a lovely new exhibition and engagement space. We are delighted that our first exhibition by contemporary artist Kurt Jackson will launch on the 3rd April and will be in situ until early July. Our engagement space will house all of our holiday workshops as well as schools and community group activities and our usual events calendar is in place for fun days and fashion shows throughout the year.

About Wheal Martyn

A great day out in Cornwall – a visit filled with discovery and adventure, infused with Cornwall’s history. Check out the original Victorian Clay Works, bursting at the seams with tools and machinery and real stories of Cornwall’s largest mining industry. Get active exploring our woodlands, let off steam on the kids adventure trail, find the flat rod tunnel and discover the secret drum set. The grounds of Wheal Martyn are a haven for all kinds of creatures, follow the nature trail to see what you can spot. Don’t forget to enjoy a pit stop in our café, serving homemade lunches and cakes plus a tasty Little Miners menu.

Facebook | Twitter

Creative Kernow, based at Krowji, is the umbrella organisation for the following nine projects. Together we support the production, promotion and distribution of work by creative practitioners in Cornwall because we believe in creativity's transformative power and want more people to benefit from it.
CK-Carn-to-cove logo
CK-C-Fylm logo
CK-Cornwall-365 logo
CK-C365-whats-on logo
CK-CMN logo
CK-feast logo
CK-Krowji logo