Widening Participation at the Ulster American Folk Park

Widening Participation at the Ulster American Folk Park

Widening participation at the Ulster American Folk Park

As our CEI trainees approach the end of their first year on the Community Engagement Initiative, we hear how Catherine Boyle has been getting to grips with her role during that time.

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Working with a participant from a Live and Learn Group during a porcelain workshop

“With a setting and context which depicts a rich migration story, my placement at the Ulster American Folk Park has provided an interesting backdrop for community engagement practice. This is because the methods include activities such as art and crafts, reminiscence, creative writing, poetry, dance and music.

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A small section of the Yarn Bomb from ‘Crafting Together Day 2014’

The last year has been action-packed as I have learnt many new skills. These include project, event and budget management and increased confidence in delivering outreach and on-site programmes. I planned and delivered Crafting Together Day in June when almost 600 people had the opportunity to make a stool, a poker, learn to knit or make a pom-pom! In October, I developed a special event for children and Over 50s as part of Silver Sunday. I coordinated two family trails, special craft sessions for visitors and a popular music session. Evaluation is key to improving museum programme delivery and I produced the report for all Silver Sunday events across NMNI.

A recent partnership project developed between the museum and ArtsCare, led local primary school children to work with older people on an intergenerational project. They explored New Horizons and developed an Opera in the Park- a dance and music performance. The first performance took place at the Folk Park and will be showcased at the ArtsCare conference in March. The project has been an exciting process to participate in, providing an excellent opportunity to learn facilitation from the perspectives of a choreographer and composer.

I have developed a number of trails for families, focusing on different aspects of the migration stories told in the museum. Several of the trails were developed for special public learning programmes such as the Rocky MountainRendezvous where a beaver acted as the guide and a Doll Trail for Crafting Together Day.

A longer term project has involved updating the Reminiscence Loan Boxes. New themes have been developed, such as a World War One box and ‘Box for the Boy’s: A box for Men’. All accompanying resources have been updated and supplemented with suggestions for activities to allow the creation of new memories! I have incorporated feedback from people in residential homes, special interest adult groups and Libraries NI to shape the content of these important resources.

I am looking forward to the remainder of the placement, with many different projects and events coming up. On Drawing Day I am leading batik workshops for visitors; planning and working with a craft group for Crafting Together 2015 and delivering a week of workshops during August as part of Craft Month.

I have enjoyed the experience of being involved with delivery of projects, collaborating with other museum departments and colleagues – I wish that the programme was longer!”