'Objects on Demand' was held at the Town Hall during Residents: Enjoy St. Albans weekend on 23 and 24 January 2016. A 'pop-up museum' for 2 days only - it showcased 70 objects from our collection.
During the event visitors could browse the catalogue, pick their favourite object and then get to see it up close and learn more about it. This was a chance to look ‘behind-the-scenes’ at the museum and some of the collection up close.
The objects and artefacts ranged from Roman through medieval up to recent social history items and were chosen either as a favourite object or because there was a personal connection with it.
Together with the museum team, 18 enthusiastic volunteers put in nearly 500 hours of their time and carefully selected, researched and photographed a variety of objects over 3 months. They got exclusive access to the collections and enjoyed special tours of the stores, free training in object handling, researching and also photographing objects with a professional museum photographer.
"I have learnt, and am still learning, so much about the lives of the people of St Albans through the objects, documents, photos and other illustrations that I have been privileged to have access to while volunteering on the Objects on Demand project.
I have acquired skills and interesting facts – paper sausages and shower caps to keep precious objects from damage, that you have to freeze some textiles in a freezer to kill nasties that may be lurking within, and how to photograph objects for museum records, among other things.
I also learned a lot about my digital camera and how to use it properly from an amazing photographer – much easier than reading the instruction book, though I may never become the next Annie Leibowitz!
Researching my chosen objects for 'Objects on Demand' has led me into all sorts of byways from a 17th century Italian Cardinal through Victorian fashion, the origins of a world famous ceramics manufacturer to lost inns and pubs of St Albans. Absolutely fascinating, and I would do it all over again. I hope people will be tempted to come and find out what I found out and be equally fascinated!"
One third of the volunteers were brand new to the museum and came on board for this project, some were university students, some were retired, some were just passionate and curious folk with a bit of spare time to offer! All generously gave much of their time to research these objects and bring them out of the stores for people to get up close to.
"As a boy I loved the dangerous and bloody parts of history, the "horrible history" bits of our past if you like. So I thought that as that had worked for me it might work for contemporary boys and girls too. There is enough time for the more diverse and detailed aspects of history once they are hooked!"
"St Albans Museum is well known as the home of Roman artefacts, but it is also a treasure trove of objects spanning hundreds of years of recent social history. I have loved searching through the catalogues looking for items donated to the museum, often by local people.
It’s been fascinating examining and researching objects, like dolls, fashion and Victorian games. Find out more about Queen Adelaide and the baby shoes that found their way to St Albans."