Local Community Helps Bagshaw Museum Create New Gallery

By Richard Moss | 05 November 2007
a flyer with old pictures and text overlaid and the words Tracing The Threads

Tracing the Threads project is helping to create a brand new gallery about the history of Batley. © Kirklees Museums

Local people are helping to shape the look, feel and content of a brand new gallery about the history of Batley and its people at Yorkshire’s Bagshaw Museum.

The museum in Wilton Park, Batley, is currently undergoing a major programme of improvements that will see a lift installed and two rooms turned into a Batley Stories Gallery.

Chief among the new improvements will be the transformation of the gallery to reflect local ideas and wishes.

“We have been to many local groups and asked them what would you like to see, what would you like to be able to touch in the gallery? How do you want the gallery to feel?” explained Kim Strickson, Outreach Co-ordinator for Kirklees Museums and Galleries.

a photograph of a woman with a video camera filming two women

Stories are recorded carefully by the Tracing the Threads team. © Kirklees Museums

As part of this process people have provided lots of stories that will feed into the new gallery. The past few months have seen scores of people contact Kirklees Museum and Galleries with their stories for inclusion. They have even come up with a name: ‘Batley’s Varieties’ in a nod to Batley’s famous theatre.

The unearthing of these hitherto hidden treasures and ideas is part of a Lottery funded project called Tracing the Threads. It is quickly becoming the vital component in shaping how the new gallery will look.

“What we could have done is simply decide to use what we already have and what we already know, and say: ‘here are the artefacts, this is the history of Batley’, but we know there are lots of hidden local artefacts, hidden local knowledge and hidden local stories out there,” said Kim “That’s what this project is all about – finding out what’s hidden out there.”

Among the stories shared as part of the Tracing the Threads project, is the story of the first Asian marriage in Batley, when the partners were not in the same country and were married by proxy.

a black and white photo of women working in a factory

The museum wants stories from people who have worked at one of Batley’s famous landmarks – Fox’s Biscuits. © Kirklees Museums

Another tells of local lass, Doris Launders, who became the youngest ever manageress in Yorkshire of a Drivers store - in Batley in 1941. Doris now lives in Leeds and has also supplied wonderful tales about the Open Air School at Bagshaw Museum and about her uncle who was an unsung hero of the Great War.

Stories are recorded carefully and pictures are scanned and then fed into the design team who are using them to inform the look, feel and design of the new galleries.

It’s a lengthy process, but one that Kim sees as essential. “At the moment the museum is closed,” she added, “but this keeps the interest going with the public because we’re talking to them all the time.”

“It’s like a big consultation programme, we have done it before with our South Asian Gallery and we have found that people are very generous and very keen to get involved.”

The consultation process will stop in Spring 2008 with the three-year refurbishment project completed by late 2009/early 2010.

a photo of a large house with a towered entrace set within a parkland

The Bagshaw Museum in Wilton Park, Batley. © Kirklees Musuem

In the meantime staff at the gallery are encouraging people to reveal more of Batley’s hidden secrets. “So far the Asian community have responded wholeheartedly and we’ve had a lot of involvement from the wider local community but we’re concerned that we want to cover the stories of the local Irish and Polish communities too,” said Kim.

The Tracing the Threads team is also interested in stories, however small, from people who have worked at or had connections with two of Batley’s famous landmarks – Fox’s Biscuits and the Batley Variety Club.

People wanting to pass on stories should contact Mashuda Shaikh at Kirklees Museums and Galleries, tel: 01484 223800 or email mashuda.shaikh@kirklees.gov.uk

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