“Cell by date” was created by young people from Bolton’s Entry to Employment (e2e) scheme.
The e2e group had complete control over all aspects of creating the exhibition, from the budget and design to the selection of objects. In order for the group to truly create their own exhibition, the group were interviewed and recruited into a project team consisting of roles normally undertaken by museum staff when creating an exhibition. Museum staff formed the interview panel and they interviewed and recruited a Project Manager from the group to manage the project overall, as well all the other roles on the project team (e.g. Exhibition Content Officer, Admin Assistant and Collections Technician).
The exhibition explores the differences between two people, two crimes, two cells looking at how a prison cell has changed since 1871.
The old cell tells the story of a young servant girl, Agnes Lawless, who was sentenced to six months hard labour in Strangeways Prison for stealing from her employer.
The new cell tells the story of a young male from Hindley Young Offenders Institute who committed theft.
The exhibition team researched the content for the exhibition and had control over the budget, the selection of objects, technical construction and marketing. The group also managed a social media aspect to the project by creating a Facebook group that invited their friends, family and wider local community to join in the conversation about “Cell by Date”. They also made a documentary film about the project and have added this to social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube to share.
Entry to Employment (e2e) is a government work scheme designed to support 16-18 years olds to progress into employment or training. The young people that Bolton Museum worked with on this project were at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training), and most had never visited a museum before.
The core values of e2e were embedded into the project: the gaining of new skills, teamwork and progression routes were at the heart of the overall objective of the project, as well as the chance for Bolton Museum and Archive Service to discover new ways of creating exhibitions, interpreting collections and working with new audiences.
The project has been chosen to be formally evaluated by Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA), as part of a national strategic commissioning project looking at Renaissance in the Regions Hub Venues contact with community groups. The consultancy company who are carrying out this evaluation met with the group throughout the project, delivering workshops and interviewing individuals.
The young people have spoken at several conferences about their involvement in the project and have been asked to contribute to training delivered by the National Youth Agency to cultural organisations.
The total cost for this project, inclusive of the exhibition was just over £10,000. As this project covered the cost of an informal learning programme with 27 young people and quality exhibition for the service, there is little doubt that it provided excellent value for money.