Hello! My name’s Hannah, and I have been the “intern” for the Conversion Narratives project for about six weeks. I’ll be posting to the blog every so often in order to offer up my reflections on aspects of the project, plus any thoughts and tidbits that might be of interest here.
I became involved with Conversion Narratives as part of a placement opportunity offered by York’s M.A. in Public History. Specifically, my role is to assist in the creation of an exhibition, called Virtue & Vice, to be held at Hardwick Hall from March 25th 2013 (though I am always on hand for various other tasks, such as decimating chocolate maps!). The primary aim of the exhibition is to re-examine Hardwick’s fantastic collection in order to place the Hall and its builder, Bess of Hardwick, within the context of the huge cultural shifts underway during the course of the early modern period.
For the past few weeks the issue foremost in my mind has been how the exhibition and app will balance academic research with the interests of both Hardwick and the public. One of its key aims, I think, is to surprise people. When visitors come to the Hall, on its lonely hillside outside Chesterfield, the last thing they expect to find are connections to significant religious, economic and cultural changes occuring not only across early modern England, but also across the world. So far, as can be seen elsewhere on this blog, the research for Conversion Narratives has had a global outlook. Conveying this sense of international change in a fairly isolated, localised setting is a challenge, but also an exciting opportunity to impact upon visitors’ perceptions of the Hall and the age in which Bess of Hardwick lived.
When drafting texts for the exhibition panels and the app, the impulse is to share everything you know! Yet, there are practical considerations. How will the text look on a panel? Will it draw the eye after walking through the rest of the house? What interests visitors most, and what do they dislike? We learned, for example, that although generally, visitors to Hardwick don’t like dates within exhibition texts, they do love a good timeline! The text must be punchy and keep the focus of the exhibition on Hardwick’s story, yet it must have a new perspective.
These few brief thoughts are an introduction to the reflections I’ll be posting here over the next few weeks as the exhibition takes shape. Watch this space for musings on matters such as how Hilary Mantel influenced our document choices, breaking down the “Hardwick barrier” and what makes a really good app!