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 . . .
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.