This month saw the launch of a new exhibition at Heritage Quay: ‘Ted Hughes: You Are Who You Choose To Be’ which runs until the beginning of July.
Like many of the displays we have in the archives, this exhibition wasn’t curated by us. This time we worked with staff in the English Literature department here at the University. Between us we supported Third Year English Literature students to select archival documents and objects that explore the Yorkshire roots of Hughes’s work, as well as his family life and professional collaborators. The displays include many newer additions to the archives here at Heritage Quay, including the Ted Hughes Network archive and the Donald Crossley archive both of which are available to researchers, although not fully catalogued yet. There are also some items on loan from a private collector.
The process of working on the exhibition with the students was really interesting. As any gallery or museum curator will tell you, curation (both selection of objects and text writing) is a delicate art. There are plenty of decisions to be made from the story you’d like to tell, to the depth of description. There will be physical constraints to deal with, including the need to minimise any damage to the objects on show, and the amount of display space available.
Our students came along for a teaching session with Public Engagement Office David Smith, who presented the relevant archives and rare books to the group, and gave them an introduction to curating an exhibition. The students were then divided into groups and had the opportunity to come and get to know the collections better in our Searchroom. These research sessions produced plenty of animated discussion!
Each group came up with proposals for each of our six cases, with tutors choosing the best ideas to become the final exhibition. The students then worked together to produce the finished layout and captions. The new exhibition was then officially launched as part of the Huddersfield Literature Festival, complete with a reading of the poem ‘Six Young Men’ by Huddersfield’s own David Rudrum, and a comedy set from poet, comedian, actor and director, Owen O’Neill.
We are delighted with the final exhibition, and have been receiving really positive responses from our visitors. We’re just as pleased to have had the chance to take some of our students through the whole process of creating an exhibition, from brainstorming ideas to launch party!