Pecha Kuchas are short, visual presentations. As you talk, you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. Your slides change automatically. And they’re more than a little tricky to deliver…
The Vital North Partnership (+ 19 other ways Newcastle University and Seven Stories are collaborating) is exactly what the title suggests: a presentation about 20 current Partnership projects. And what are those projects? Well, watch the video and find out!
With thanks to Jeff Wilson from the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, who produced this video.
“The Michael Morpurgo exhibition was really visually pleasing. The person who took us around was really passionate and informative.”
Next, we headed up to the Attic, where the Seven Stories Collections Team and Dr Pearson facilitated a hands-on session with original material from Seven Stories’ Catherine Storr,David Almond and Judith Kerr collections.
Our visitors really appreciated the chance to explore this original material in detail:
“The chance to look at the objects / drawings from the collection / archive was great.”
Then, Seven Stories’ Storycatchers Jayne and Lawrence introduced us to the Rhyme Around the World gallery, where we had some self-led time to explore hopes and fears in nursery rhymes. And to have fun with the interactives… “I dressed up as a sheep!”
The evening closed with a drinks reception and quiz in the Attic, sponsored by Newcastle University’s Humanities Research Institute. My knowledge of hope and fear in children’s books was certainly tested, anyway!
Commenting on what they thought was most successful about Hope and Fear in Children’s Books, I was really pleased to see that a number of our visitors said they liked the opportunity to ‘chat to experts’. And I think this piece of feedback from a participant about the impact the event had on them sums the evening up for me, too:
“It’s made me think about how literature can help children (and adults!) cope with fear, and indeed hope.”
Hello Zoe! You undertook a Newcastle University Research Scholarship with Seven Stories. What’s that, and how did you secure it?
A vacation Research Scholarship is offered to students in their middle or penultimate year of their degree from Schools across the University. Back in January 2016, we were notified of this opportunity to conduct some research and receive a bursary. My supervisor Professor James Law notified me that Seven Stories would like some research to be conducted in collaboration with them. I organised a meeting at Seven Stories where I met members of the Learning and Participation Team. We decided on a topic and wrote a proposal that was handed in February 2016. In March I found the proposal was successful and began the scholarship in June 2016.
What did you do during your Research Scholarship with Seven Stories?
We decided to do a study about Hooks into Books at Seven Stories and sent Snow Dogs book packs into two schools to evaluate how they were received, and if anything could be improved. This involved doing a literature review surrounding reading for pleasure and its implications. After packs were delivered I then attended each school, carried out questionnaires and observed a session. This was great, seeing the school staff and children’s reactions to the books.
What were your research findings?
Children’s reading habits did not differ between the schools (regardless of pupil premium percentage).
Teachers and Schools have different definitions therefore different approaches to reading for pleasure. School A: ‘Enjoying stories for the sake of it and being able to be comfortable laying down in a nice environment.’ School B: ‘Having enough knowledge and understanding to be able to read for fluency.’
Schools took different approaches to reading the story (one read all one read half). They also had different ways of choosing the story (one asked colleagues, one looked at illustrations). The activities they did using the books were also different: one was purely creative and artistic whereas the other followed more closely the curriculum with creative writing and pictures.
How did you find working in a cultural education setting like Seven Stories, in comparison to a speech therapy role?
I really enjoyed working with Seven Stories and felt very supported throughout my time there.
It was enjoyable working in the office, then experiencing the hustle and bustle of schools. In comparison, as a speech therapy student every day and placement can be different, from hospitals, to children’s centres, to community clinics and schools.
What have you learnt from your Research Scholarship?
I have learnt lots of research skills from my project, particularly how to form child-friendly questionnaires and write literature reviews. I have also learnt how to format and design posters.
What impact will your Research Scholarship and time with Seven Stories have on your future studies, research and career plans?
I hope to incorporate my experience into speech therapy in the future, particularly the links between ‘reading for pleasure’ and speech and language difficulties. The formatting skills I learnt will help me in the future to make assessed posters whilst still at university, but also in the future when making information sheets for colleagues of clients.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I would encourage anyone to take up the opportunity of a summer vacation Research Scholarship. It was a valuable experience which will definitely have benefits for my future.
This digital age of ours poses a challenge to both museums and higher education. How can museums present physical collections digitally? And how can academic research into these collections engage the Google Cardboard generation?
The result? The Catherine Storr Experience explores the unsettling novel of Storr’s Marianne Dreams (1958), and the house that Marianne draws. Using the context of Marianne’s room, the augmented reality experience introduces a number of Storr’s books and illustrators, as well as some aspects of her life. The experience allows you to explore different objects, characters and settings by moving your smartphone or cursor.
It uses the very latest in WebVR technology. I haven’t seen anything like this yet in digital collections, so I asked Dan about the technological innovation:
“This is new and experimental technology, which is on the edge of a breakthrough into the mainstream. It has the ability to take information that has traditionally been displayed in a flat, 2D way and literally add another dimension to it!
Websites have the great advantage of allowing the viewer to navigate the information at their own pace. Video and TV captivate and engage the viewer. This sort of experience combines the best of both; I like to think of it as a guided tour with the ability for you to ‘ask’ questions along the way.”
From Seven Stories’ perspective, Kris commented that this partnership had brought a new dimension to their digital collections:
“It was interesting to see how a group of talented people from outside the museums and heritage sector were able to respond to the challenge of representing an archive in a new way; Kim was able to bring her expertise to write the content, and Dan and Tom were able to envision a unique platform to present it. It will be intriguing to see what people make of The Catherine Storr Experience and the additional content on our website.”
And I’ll leave it to Kim to have the final word:
“Working with colleagues in Culture Lab and Seven Stories made it possible to experiment with new ways of presenting archival mterial and reaching out to audiences all over the world. It required new ways of writing, and Dan and Tom approached the task in adventurous ways that re-engaged me with the material. It was an exciting and challenging – in the best possible ways – collaboration.”
Newcastle University and Seven Stories’ David Almond Fellowships aim to promote high-quality research into the Seven Stories Collection by supporting award holders to make a study visit to Newcastle. And there are so many amazing collections that you could research! Take a look at Seven Stories’ informative Collections blog for an insight into some of our holdings.
We launched the David Almond Fellowships in 2012 to increase national and international access to Seven Stories’ Collection and build new links with researchers. So far, we’ve awarded 11 Fellowships and over half of our Fellows have come from outside the UK.
Lucy Stone, one of our 2016 award-holders, says of her David Almond Fellowship:
“To take up the pen, pencil or paintbrush proffers the chance to make sense of the beautiful, but also perplexing world into which children are born, grow and find their place as an adult. The Judith Kerr Collection contains a myriad of remarkable drawings, paintings and writings child Kerr crafted pre- and during her family’s exile from Nazi Germany. Thanks to a David Almond Fellowship, I had the wonderful opportunity this summer to examine Kerr’s juvenilia, now part of my doctoral research involving consulting archives across Europe and the US to determine what writing and drawing can offer refugee children. Everyone at Seven Stories and the Children’s Literature Unit were incredibly helpful and supportive; the Fellowship proved invaluable.”
Over 500 people visited Seven Stories over the course of our Big Draw weekend. 2016’s STEAM Powered Big Draw Festival aims to inspire illustrators everywhere to explore creative innovation, enterprise, digital technologies and the arts through drawing.
Now, I think the views of the children and families visiting Seven Stories are pretty important here. After all, they’re the ones who’ll be living and working in Newcastle in fifty years’ time!
So what will Newcastle and Seven Stories look like in 2065? Here’s what Seven Stories’ visitors think…
Building Newcastle Gateshead
Over the course of the weekend, children and families added to our large map of Newcastle and Gateshead to create their vision of Newcastle in 2065.
And their creativity was amazing! Visitors built homes, cultural, sports and science venues, businesses, hotels, transport systems, power stations and several bridges. In fact, the children organically created pretty much everything you’d need in a future city.
I was pleased to see they thought the Angel of the North would still be there, and Seven Stories too!
The house of the future…?
Children drew on (and played in!) our large 3D house of the future. What does this tell us? Perhaps that houses in the future will be more colourful and allow for personalisation. We’ll continue to build in green technologies, and graffiti won’t be going away any time soon…!
The streets of 2065
Dr Emine Thompson and students from Northumbria University came in to run a ‘Your City, You Design It!’ workshop. We looked at the streets of Newcastle in 3D and then participants designed a new Northumberland Street using SketchUp. It’s going to look pretty different in 2065…
A big jigsaw for the Big Draw
Zander Wilson of Open Lab at Newcastle University provided a fun jigsaw activity. The children coloured in wooden RFID enabled jigsaw pieces, before recording a message about their hopes for the future of the city. Zander will be combining these to make a digital jigsaw – I’m excited to see the finished result!
The future of Seven Stories
Our last two activities of the weekend were all about planning the future of Seven Stories. Throughout the weekend, children could draw a new blueprint for our galleries, and Teresa Strachan and the YES Planning students at Newcastle University came to deliver a drop-in workshop all about urban planning. Here’s a plan one of the children came up with!
The children came up with so many interesting ideas about what Newcastle Gateshead will be like in 2065 – I’m looking forward to seeing what changes the future holds!
For applicants: well, for starters, it’s a fully-funded PhD opportunity and Northern Bridge’s focus on academic excellence means that these studentships are very highly regarded.
You’ll have the opportunity to study Seven Stories’ amazing children’s literature collection in depth through your PhD research. This could also lead to placement opportunities with us through Northern Bridge: perhaps your work will feed into a Seven Stories exhibition, or you could help us with collection management tasks, or maybe you could deliver a public event?
For Seven Stories: Seven Stories encourage research on our collection. Academic research really helps to unlock the archive and we love the new ideas that researchers come up with.
For Northern Bridge: By launching the Partnership Awards this year, Northern Bridge are exploring a new way of involving Strategic Partners within the Doctoral Training Partnerships – and we’re excited to be trailblazing with them!
So how will it work?
Step 1: Working with Northern Bridge, Seven Stories have developed a call for applications for the Partnership Award. We’re particularly interested in receiving applications in the following areas: Makers of children’s literature: children’s book history 1750-2000, New adults: the growth of teenage literature, and Children on stage: twentieth century children’s theatre. But if you want to look at Seven Stories’ collections from another angle, we’d still be very interested in hearing from you. Take a look…
Step 2: The application period is now live! Students who are planning to apply for the Seven Stories Partnership Award are encouraged to outline their proposed research project and email this with a CV to firstname.lastname@example.org to register their interest by 18 November 2016.
Step 4: The completed applications will go into the 2017 Northern Bridge Studentship competition and will be assessed alongside all other Northern Bridge submissions. The outcome of the studentship competition will be announced in March 2017.
Step 5: Successful applicants will start their Partnership Award PhD in autumn 2017.
So now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we get some great applications!
For more information about Northern Bridge and the Seven Stories Partnership Award, visit the Northern Bridge website.
This was fantastic recognition of our collaboration over the last 10 years, and led Seven Stories (with Newcastle University’s support) to make a Museum Resilience Fund bid to Arts Council England. This was for the Vital North Partnership, a project with the following aims:
To strengthen and scale-up Seven Stories’ partnership with Newcastle University
To build Seven Stories’ brand recognition and reach and develop new income streams
To secure a sustainable business model for Seven Stories as the national home for children’s books
We were delighted to be awarded funding, and the Vital North Partnership began…
From 2015 to 2016
It’s been a busy first year. Here are some of the highlights!
We offered 4 joint public talks on children’s literature with expert Brian Alderson, and author Garth Nix.
Seven Stories’ Living Books project is ongoing: this is a development programme for early years settings and parents to share and enjoy books with young children. Newcastle University’s Centre for Learning and Teaching are helping to evaluate this project.
We jointly offered four David Almond Fellowshipsto support postgraduates and early career researchers to come and consult the Seven Stories collection.
Newcastle University students from the BA in English Literature and BA in Education visited Seven Stories as part of their course, and I gave a seminar on Seven Stories and reading for pleasure for the Educational Psychology doctoral trainees
Now I’ve been in post for 8 months, things are really gathering pace. There are lots of projects in the pipeline and I’m planning to share activities as they happen via this blog. If you’d like more information about anything you’ve read about here, get in touch!