Poor Yorick is proud to introduce our partner Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) located in Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom. RAMM’s statement of purpose summarizes the museum’s missions and reputation:
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) is a service of Exeter City Council. It exists to enrich the lives of people living, working in and visiting Exeter by providing them with opportunities to be inspired, informed and entertained. The City’s world-class collections are placed at the heart of everything the museum does. RAMM will acquire collections that document the natural and cultural history of Exeter set within its regional and national context as well as those that represent the City and region’s connections across the world. The museum holds collections in trust for present and future generations, managing and caring for them for the public benefit.
RAMM’s slogan is “We are ‘Home to a Million Thoughts.’” It aims to use its stunning collections to stimulate thoughts and ideas, seek opinions, start conversations, and encourage debate. The style is open, collaborative, and inclusive with different voices, personal interpretations, and new perspectives.
The museum itself has a rich history grounded in its development and growth over 140 years. In 1813, the Devon and Exeter Institution opened with the mission of “promoting the general diffusion of Science, Literature and Art, and….illustrating the Natural and Civic History of the County of Devon and the City of Exeter.” The original collections were incorporated into the new “Albert Memorial,” following a citizen initiative to honor the late Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The museum grew and changed in many ways throughout its history, and between 2007 and 2011, RAMM underwent a major redevelopment. The renovations “repaired structural damage, allowed further growth with an additional entrance and a new temporary exhibitions gallery and all sections of the building were integrated to serve museum visitors for generations to come.” The redevelopment culminated in RAMM winning the British Museum of the Year Award in 2012.
The different collections at RAMM appeal to a wide variety of interests and topics including fine arts, costumes and textiles, decorative art, local history and archeology, and geology. They are not always displayed separately in their traditional disciplines but, rather, are integrated with each other to illustrate the stories they can jointly tell.
One of the current programs focuses on “The First World War Centenary,” which began in January 2014. The program will run for four years and consists of exhibitions, events, and activities, all meant to engage the community in learning about the impact of the First World War on the southwest of England’s people and landscape.
Poor Yorick talks with Kate Osborne, RAMM’s Learning and Skills Officer:
PY: Can you tell us more about The First World War Centenary that opened this past January? It sounds like you have worked with many community partners to make this happen.
KO: It’s an ongoing program across the next four years, and so far, we have opened an exhibition on First World War recruiting posters, called “Paper Persuaders,” as well as of artifacts and artworks from our own collections, including prints by Muirhead Bone. We have hosted displays of personal war memorabilia collections belonging to local people and a memorial embroidered hanging to which, for a donation to the British Legion, visitors added poppies with the name of a family member who served in the war. We have also supported young adults in challenging circumstances to write poetry about the issues of conflict, inspired by First World War artworks in RAMM’s collections and connected with their own lives. We are working in partnership with the University of Exeter on an exhibition entitled Faces of Conflict, which arises from the EU INTERREG IV-funded project 1914FACES2014, led by Professor Bernard Devauchelle (Institut Faire Faces) and Professor David Houston Jones (University of Exeter). The exhibition, which includes artwork made at the time as well as contemporary interpretations, looks at the experience of the facially injured soldiers of the First World War as the starting point for a broader enquiry into disfigurement, and argues that facial injuries in 1914-18 led to innovations in surgery and permanently changed understandings of the face. Our First World War collections can be seen online at http://rammcollections.org.uk/ramm-themes/first-world-war.ashx, and there is more to come.
PY: What kinds of activities do you host at RAMM to bring in the community?
KO: Anything that engages in conversation with people from all walks of life where their interests and/or needs overlap with ours. Usually those conversations center somewhere around collections and collections’ expertise and personal identity—whether exploring identity after a life crisis or confirming identity by participating in something that really appeals, including volunteering at RAMM. Activities include lectures, symposia and debates to art schools, training young people to be gallery guides, helping people in challenging circumstances to find their place in the world again through handling sessions and subsequent creative practices, working in prisons, hosting themed music nights and glitter balls, and encouraging families to learn together by exploring our collections through trails and holiday activities. Take a look at our case studies on http://www.rammuseum.org.uk/about-ramm/participation and http://www.rammuseum.org.uk/getting-involved.
PY: What are some of RAMM’s prized collections? What makes RAMM so engaging and unique?
KO: It depends on who you ask. The collections are what make RAMM unique and engaging without a doubt. My personal favorite is an early nineteenth-century wooden model of Exeter, made from memory. It shows the city as it looked just before major demolition works to widen roads took place. The Roman walls and medieval gates are all in place as well as the streetscape, which was later altered even more by bombing in World War Two. It’s a gem, and people stand for ages working out what’s where.
Research Advisory Board
A Line of Destroyers, 1917 by Carolyn Lodge
In September 2014, RAMM held a creative writing workshop open to community members interested in engaging with pieces from their collection. During the workshop, participants produced creative writing based on their inspiration. The short story “A Line of Destroyers, 1917,” by Caroline Lodge, came from this workshop, and it was inspired by the lithograph “Line of Destroyers by Muirhead Bone.”