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Guest Blog – Melanie Hollis, Ipswich Museums

Guest Blog - Melanie Hollis

You Are Here! The Making of Ipswich is a temporary exhibition running at Ipswich Art Gallery, just a few minutes’ walk down the hill from Ipswich School, until 15th April 2018. It explores the town’s history through objects which are not often seen on display.

When I studied history at school and then at university, the topics I enjoyed the most were always the ones which allowed me to really feel like I was finding out more about the people behind the history. Imagining myself meeting them and considering what their lives might have been like was something which I think steered me towards a career in museums – we have lots of wonderful objects which are all evidence of lives once lived, and I really enjoy bringing the stories of their owners to life for other people to enjoy and learn from.

It was this idea which also guided me when I was tasked with organising an exhibition which would attract local people.

The history of Ipswich is a long and fascinating one – much bigger than I can tell here. Another great place to find out more (aside from You Are Here!) is the balcony display in Ipswich Museum. It explains the many changes Ipswich has seen – from Saxon settlement and the start of town life to industrial revolution and population booms, there are lots of highs and lows in the story of Ipswich.

‘Who used to live where I live now?’ ”How do we know that people did that?’ and ‘Why did our descendants come to Ipswich?’ are some of the questions which people seem to want to know the answers to, but we didn’t want to just tell them lots of information.
We want visitors to share their own stories and memories, and to leave curious to find out more about their town and its people, and so the objects selected for display in You Are Here! The Making of Ipswich were chosen specifically because they could inspire conversation and curiosity.

I have two personal favourites:
• The carved wooden beam from the old customs house – I picture the sailors who have rested under that beam over the centuries and the tales they must have collected on their journeys across the world’s waters to and from the Ipswich dockside.
• The Saxon pottery – that such an innovative idea and method of production began right here in Ipswich is a little mind-blowing, and it is one of the things which makes me proud to say I live and work here.

We have objects from several collections on display, and each is a clue about the humans who made, owned, used, lost, sold or broke them. These were ordinary and hardworking people, just going about their daily lives and for the most part now lost to history. I often wonder what they would think of their belongings being on display and made ‘special’.

Melanie Hollis, Collections and Learning Curator for Ipswich Museums

About the Author

Melanie Hollis, Collections and Learning Curator for Ipswich Museums

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