RHUL, HISTORY MA Public History Alumni Seminar #1Posted: April 8, 2015
APRIL 9TH 6PM MOORE BUILDING MX-001
Dr Hanna Hagmark-Cooper:
From corner to community – Museums sharing authority in a Facebook world
Dr Hanna Hagmark- Cooper will talk about her work as the Director of the EMYA nominated Aland Maritime Museum as well as ‘Facebook as a way of collecting materials for museum exhibitions’.
In April 2012 four men, all of whom had worked for the Gustaf Erikson (GE) shipping company, met up to plan and organise a summer get-together for former GE employees. As they exchanged memories and photos, they discovered an emotional need to collect stories and pictures from their past working lives (the 1950s onward). The men formed a Facebook group: ‘We who have been to sea in GE ships’. It proved to be immediately popular. Today the group has more than 550 members and still growing. In doing so, fulfilling a social necessity to re-member.
Members of the group post pictures from their time on board various GE ships: to date, more than 8,000 uploaded photographs. Information is exchanged about old friends, details of ships and ports. Together the members are creating a memory bank of life at sea in the second half of the 20th century. In doing so, they are meeting a historical need. The maritime historical records of Åland have very little on this period. Most of the existing material is concerned with the classic tall ships. Modern, engine-powered shipping is largely absent, in terms of objects, photos, archival material and stories.
In my capacity as director of Åland Maritime Museum, I was invited to join the group and survey the collected material. I was immediately struck by the significance of the collection. What made it particularly fascinating was that this was a story told from a crew perspective: ‘history from below’, if you like. The idea of an exhibition quickly formed and in 2013, as part of the 100th anniversary exhibition of the GE shipping company, Åland Maritime Museum produced an exhibition based on this collection. Members of the Facebook group co-curated the exhibition, which included not only a selection of photographs, but also the members’ commentary.
The exhibition was very popular and I believe serves as an example of how museum staff can work together with self-identifying groups in local communities, thereby sharing authority. While the paper will outline some of the challenges involved in cooperative working, I will demonstrate how museums through using social media can make otherwise marginalised histories available to wider audiences and how it can serve to place the museum at the heart of the community it seeks to represent. As a direct result of this cooperation, a new Åland project is now underway, in which a selection of the photographs will become part of the museum’s collection.
For more information about MA Public History Alumni seminars and activities, please contact: Dr Graham Smith.