Once shown to my desk for my new post as Education Manager, my first pre-occupations were with the day-today projects, procedures and staffing of my department. In time I looked up from the contents of my in-tray only to see a more complex set of issues surrounding me: the name of the organisation and its business. The organisation is the Galleries of Justice; a museum of Law in Nottingham and my business is education. Law, Education and Museum, unfortunately are not attractive words to young people,and even less so to one of our core audiences, the socially excluded. What was needed was a re-packaging,without diminishing our product, our excellent physical resources and expertise of the staff.
The Galleries of Justice occupies a unique site in the now fashionable Lace Market area of Nottingham's city centre. In 1995 the Shire Hall complete with two Victorian courtrooms, an eighteenth century prison and Edwardian Police station were saved from re-development to become a museum of Law, the only one of its kind in Britain. At the core of its role as a museum was and is education, a backdrop for young people from five to twenty five to learn about the history and workings of the Law in an authentic setting.
The educational visitor and the general public are orientated around the site by various characters that effectively transport the groups through three centuries of Crime, Political Protest and Punishment. The Judge sitting in the Criminal Court conducts the trial of George Beck from 1832 and those chosen to stand in the dock will find themselves sentenced to hang on the front steps and experience first hand, the sight of the black cap being donned directly infront of them. The group then descend the thirteen winding steps down in to the prison where the Georgian Warder in the Night Cell and, the Victorian Women prisoner in the bathhouse confront them with the reality of being a prisoner, personalising it by stories of the fates of previous inhabitants.
Towards the end of the experience the groups are led through the routine of the drudgery of the exercise yard and vision of what happens next for the prisoner: transportation or execution.
All dramatic and captive stuff for what was mainly history students, observing the Victorians at primary level or Crime and Punishment through time at secondary school.
But was this enough? Certainly in terms of visitor figures, no. History is sadly a shrinking subject within the confines of the national curriculum and the law and crime related part was even a smaller slice of the cake. There was also an increasing feeling that the power of what was being offered and the breadth of the subject area was not being fully utilised by simply the experience of observing the past.
Learn about the Past - Act in the Present - Change the Future
As a charitable organisation we are reliant upon funding and ticket income, and my brief was to raise numbers whilst maintaining quality.Working along side the Business Development Manager, we began to refocus the educational outlook. The aim was to maximise the use of the excellent resource we were housed in, whilst bringing to the fore the contentious issues, which we could deal with, to support government initiatives around Crime Reduction.
The organisation offers a neutral environment and the trained staff to deal with the Law, the Police, Crime and Punishment fully exploring major issues in a suitable environment but without the participants being influenced by authority figures.This is particularly important for inclusion groups with prejudiced views of authority who need a sensitive and objective approach. We recognised the power of the buildings and their historical depth along side a range of innovative and worthy projects. The intention was not to lose the present use of the building, but to add to it to small social inclusion groups working on well-supported projects with high aspirations.
Starting with a project working on key issues such as domestic violence and translating them into a video, we identified a model to work with young people who were termed as ls"at risk' that is of offending or being excluded from school.
This model included looking on issues around the law in a small group who were supported by adult mentors, including off duty police officers.
The Inclusion projects needed a discrete base, which became known as the Citizens'Zone a new youth wing of the Galleries, a brightly coloured area, which contrasts with the browns and greys of the historical museum building.
The Citizens' Zone is as interactive as possible to engage the young people's interest it includes:
- a suite of I-mac computers so that the participants can edit down their own video films and create their own websites
- a protest area where views and ideas can be expressed against a history of protest, an adjoining room 101 where again opinions could be illustrated in a display case
- a workspace called the Action Point, where project sessions take place
- a Community Gallery in the heart of the museum, which showcases a range of exhibitions by local community groups.
Subject matter for recent exhibitions includes: Global refugees; black identity in modern Britain; Christian responsibility and Political cartoons.
As well as the Citizens' Zone programmes which are small, intensive and heavily resourced, the Galleries were successful in 2001 at gaining funding from the Home Office to do a mock trial for 3000 Nottingham pupils. The Galleries already did a series of historical mock trials acted out by the groups in the Victorian court, including the Luddites, Suffragettes and Reform Bill Rioters.
The new programme which I designed was called ls"What Happens to Robbie Hood' and focused on a young burglar,Robbie who unlike his historical namesake, Robin Hood, does not have a heroic fate, but finds himself at the age of fifteen, at a Youth Court sentencing. The programme engaged the young people exploring issues that can directly relate to their own lives. It made them think about the consequences of the crime not only for Robbie but his girlfriend, family and for the victim.
The success of ls"What Happens to Robbie Hood', has led to further funding from Government Office for the East Midlands to expand the materials to include a courtroom scenario involving Robbie's younger brother in a custody case.This sensitive piece is to be called ls"Taking care of Tyrone' and deals with the family background behind offenders and the effect of bad parenting. With the growing number of groups using a Youth Court and Magistrate's Court setting, funding was gained to install a modern looking court room in the nineteen Seventies Magistrates court, here groups have a less physically dramatic setting than the Victorian equivalent but a more authentic space.
Easter 2005 will see the opening of a new Crime reduction centre opening in the old Police station, which closed down in 1986.
In this space participants will be able to explore issues relating to the police and crime reduction in an authentic setting.The Police station will have a modern day reception area, interview rooms and cells to offer the experience and factuality of the police. In addition there will be activity areas and an IT suite for participants to engage in multi-media programmes.
The thinking behind the Police station is that rather than education areas being separate from the main museum, learning spaces sit side by side with heritage spaces, so the activities have cross-reference and immediate impact.
Participants will learn about the role of the police in an actual police station and be able to then work on projects dealing with crime reduction, this is a model example of community capacity: that is citizens taking responsibility for the community around them.
National Centre for Citizenship and the Law (NCCL)
The Galleries were becoming increasingly proficient at gaining funding for specific projects for Young People at Risk and even ran a project with the Youth Offending Teams adapting the Recycle model for Young Offenders. However we still had a limited profile and what was known about us locally was confused with our status as a Visitor Attraction and a history based educational resource. The problems of being associated with the words Education, Law and Museum continued to be limiting From September 2002 Citizenship will become the first new curriculum subject in England, in ten years. Looking at the proposals it became evident that the Galleries could play a key role in this. All that we did and planned to do could sit under the Citizenship banner, which as well as being accessible also was a positive message. Far more so than the previous tags of museum and Law had been.
The Galleries of Justice houses a unique set of resources and the accumulated expertise and range of programme has begun to gain national recognition. To speed this process and raise our profile beyond the East Midlands in 2002 we became the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law (NCCL)
Within our strategic plan we drew out three areas of the curriculum as devised by Bernard Crick:
- Social and Moral Responsibility
- Community Involvement
- Legal Literacy
Whilst we had always had the courts the emphasis was on the content rather than the process. With Citizenship we are now able in a historical and modern context to show the legal system from the arrest procedure through to the trial itself, with participants role-playing at all the stages.
Further to this the trails round the museum's prison now focusing on the human rights issues rather than purely the historical.
In many ways Citizenship has refined approach to the law and rather dealing with a small percentage of Law students we are now working with a much number of participants focusing on legal literacy.
By being a national centre we are making sure that the law and crime reduction are firmly represented in the curriculum and in the social inclusion market. Citizenship is not a new idea however under the present government it provides a major opportunity to access young people to major public issues.
To fit the demands and expectations of a National centre I need to create a self sufficient organisation and what was formulated was three sections: Schools and Colleges to operate the visits from groups; Crime reduction to run specialist funded projects for young people at risk of offending; and Community to use the museum space to incorporate the needs of the local population who normally would not chose to visit a museum.
Gulbenkian Prize - Future plans
Having established a strategic plan for the NCCL, the emphasis was on expansion, where once I was the sole educational specialist, we now recruited a team of five experts, made up of a Schools and Colleges Manager, a Crime Reduction Manager, two facilitators and an Administrator.
With the creation of a team came a growth in demand for our services:my broad stick was something that one of participants told me, that we had to make our projects as exciting as "stealing a car and setting light to it". What followed was and is a series of multi-media projects ranging from website creation, to short films and producing sound tracks. All the work involved gaining understanding for the participants of their rights and responsibilities as citizens: goal setting, behaviour control and gaining skills from professionals.
As our reputation grew the next step was to specialise and draw in partnership, thus within the Crime Reduction world we have strong links within local government offices, voluntary agencies, the Youth Offending Team and Local Justice Board. It is not unusual on any week for us to be involved in meetings, which go across the museum, heritage, citizenship, education and crime reduction sectors. Therefore we span wide areas of funding and also community influence.
As a mode of information we are limited to visitors to the Galleries of Justice, therefore to live up to our national identity we have looked to the World Wide Web to increase our service users.
In addition to the NCCL website www.nccl.org.uk a major new website www.rizer.co.uk has won funding to communicate information to those involved in the criminal justice system.Focusing on young offenders they will be able to find out what choices they have and what outcomes they will be facing. We also have a website to engage school participants in the museum collection: www.citizensportal.com
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