Intern Jess Starns: What I learnt at Geffrye Museum

Jessica Starns completed a Creative Employment Programme internship at Geffrye Museum. Shortly before finishing her placement, she gave an overview of the projects that excited her the most – and there were many to choose from! Read on to find out more. 

As a Young People’s Programmes Intern here at the Geffrye Museum, I have been working on an exciting project: assisting with the ‘Centenary Celebrations’ of the museum. During the last 4 months I have helped out during Steering Group and YAP meetings, supported the Hidden Geffrye photography project as well as the Young Volunteer Tour Guides.

I have now learnt a lot about the history of the Geffrye Museum and the people who used to live in the almshouses by listening to members of staff here at the Geffrye, reading books and Ernest Baker’s diary, listening through 8 hours of oral history (!) and by looking at archive material and photographs. I visited the London Metropolitan Archives and found archives materials like: a hand drawn map of the Queen’s route around the Geffrye Museum for her Silver Jubilee visit as well as information about the exhibition she saw – ‘Lousy and Loyal’; the Geffrye almshouse orders (rules) through the years and the last remaining two petitions to the almshouses; a letter from the curator Molly Harrison writing about the damaged caused by a nearby bomb and a report by the Education Officer stating that there were more child visitors than adult visitors between January and June 1949 – there were around 19,000 child visitors and 7,500 adult visitors!

You can find the Centenary Celebrations Timeline here.

Centenary Celebrations Timeline

I received training in Final Cut Pro from Chocolate Films and made 4 short films for the timeline using oral history interview footage taken by Hackney UTC students over the course of their interviews with volunteers.

You can watch the Centenary Celebrations short films here…


Top Tips for Oral History Interviews (made by the students with final edits by me)

Exhibitions at the Geffrye

Ways the Geffrye Museum has changed

Learning at the Geffrye

My favourite stories through my research so far have been:

That the Geffrye Museum garden used to slope from east to west, so to level it out the Geffrye Charity Committee asked the locals to dump their rubbish on the front garden! I also wondered what the ‘Victoria Room’ was when I first started as you can see it has been added on. The Victoria Room was built in 1897 for the almshouse residents for the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and was used as a library and a communal entertainment room (though the museum curators have it as their office now).

Victoria Room © Geffrye Museum of the Home
Victoria Room © Geffrye Museum of the Home

I enjoyed reading Ernest Baker’s diary and seeing his character come out in his drawings and writing. Ernest Baker wasn’t very good at spelling and hoped that a ‘future grammar witch’ doesn’t read his diary! My favourite diary entry was on Tuesday February 7th 1882, when he visits the local fire station the fireman to gave him a tour and spoke about his job of being a fireman.

Ernest Baker sketch © Geffrye Museum of the Home

Ernest Baker sketch © Geffrye Museum of the Home 

Ernest Baker diary © Geffrye Museum of the Home

Ernest Baker diary © Geffrye Museum of the Home

Molly Harrison was a Geffrye curator from 1946 to 1969 she was influential in developing museum education within museums. The children used to call her ‘Auntie Molly’.

Curator Molly Harrison with visitors in a period room © Geffrye Museum of the Home / The Copyright Holder

Curator Molly Harrison with visitors in a period room © Geffrye Museum of the Home / The Copyright Holder

During my last 2 months I shall be supporting the YAP Family Day and the Centenary Celebrations Young Volunteer Tour Guides tours, evaluating the project and helping out with YAP and the last few Steering Group meetings. I am looking forward to the YAP Family Day next Sunday and hearing the Young Volunteer Tour Guide give their first tours.

Following her CEP placement, Jess secured a role at The Prince’s Trust as a Job Ambassador. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaStarns. 



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