Felicity Tattersall, (writer and artist) tell us about Magical Realism in the Museum, an online creative writing project using the museum collection at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro to inspire a new wave of writers during lockdown.
Our project is about engaging writers with the treasures of the museum. We wanted to encourage participants who had perhaps always wanted to write but had never had the opportunity, time, confidence or inspiration to try writing before. We reached out to a lot of local community groups to engage with our project, such as Age Concern. Initially, we had hoped to run ‘physical’ creative writing workshops within the museum, but once the news about lockdown 3 was announced, we moved the project online. This gave us an opportunity to be really experimental, and we have worked on an evolving workshop model, so that participants dip in and out and can engage with the challenges whenever works best for them.
New challenges are posted three times a week, all directly inspired by fantastic objects, and object stories from the collection at the Royal Cornwall Museum. So far we have been inspired by objects including a historic medicine chest, a microscope, a ceramic pig, a coffee pot, a painting of a giant, minerals and many more. We also wanted to encourage participants who had never visited the museum before, who could experience a different kind of visit through our project during lockdown.
The museum has such an incredible wealth of amazing collections, and we wanted to re-frame the museum as a creative space offering endless was to inspire our writing. We encourage participants to think about objects in the museum as character’s and imagine how they might be feeling or what they might be talking about, if they could talk. Our online content is delivered through videos filmed in the museum before the lockdown, many showing the objects in very close detail, as well as photographs, and illustrations.
The Museum team have been absolutely brilliant to work with on this project, members of staff have even written guest posts, which give a completely different flavour, as they know the building and collection so well. I’ve loved working with the museum staff on this project, it genuinely has been a team effort.
We have 188 people following the project so far, a number which is increasing everyday. Participants have been so imaginative in their responses. Thank you so much to FEAST for funding our project, which we hope offers some creative inspiration during this extremely challenging time.
One of our most popular challenges has been to write down twenty words in response to an early twentieth century doll on a circular base. Zannie came up with these wonderful words: ‘tumble, tinker ,tiny, red, base , Welsh, summers day , sharp, basket, her name? ribbon, detailed, tiny , doll-like, messy, selling.’
Nicola said it made her think about: ‘My fair lady, flowers, Covent Garden, luv. Come into town wif’ what I have. Trinkets, curiosities, glamour, pretty, cold weather, warm heart. I imagine old London Town market or similar.’
It was incredible to see how different all the responses were to the exact same object. It made us think about how much our own experiences help us to create meaning when working on creative writing or visiting a museum.
Huge thanks to everyone who has and continues to engage with our project, it is so exciting to see the participant’s creativity and imagination at play.