By the People, for the People; Ahead of the Museum of Liverpool's First Birthday, Paddy Shennan Meets One of Its Curators

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), June 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

By the People, for the People; Ahead of the Museum of Liverpool's First Birthday, Paddy Shennan Meets One of Its Curators


INTERESTING PEOPLE ... INTERESTING JOBS CROWDS of people of all ages fill the foyer, line the staircase and pack the galleries ... yes, it's just another ordinary day at the Museum of Liverpool, which celebrates its first birthday next month.

If anyone is still labouring under the misapprehension that museums are stuffy, starchy, cold and clinical places then they obviously haven't visited the one which graces our waterfront.

Every museum should, by definition, be a people's museum (or else it would be pretty empty), but the Museum of Liverpool really does fit the bill.

"This is a city that has always had a brilliant museum ethos and this museum is telling the stories of the city," says Bill Longshaw, its curator of community history.

"The People's Republic gallery, for example, is by the people for the people. We are dedicated to making things accessible and relevant, without dumbing down."

He adds: "Many people still find museums intimidating places, but we can be proud that people in Liverpool have learned to love their museums and view them as theirs. People who come here for the first time find it to be friendly and warm, as well as informative, and that means they will hopefully come back again and again."

Bill, 45, has a good perspective on this, and Liverpool overall, because he is, whisper it, a Mancunian - one who studied here in the mid to late 1980s and returned in 2008 (initially to work on the Arthur Dooley Archive at the Liverpool Academy of Arts) to find a city rebor n.

He says: "I did a Fine Art degree at Liverpool Polytechnic and graduated in 1989, so I was here when the city was on its uppers - although you could see its potential. But to come back in 2008 and see the amount of work that had taken place to improve the city was really pleasing. Its year as Capital of Culture put a smile on people's faces and cast off the city's old image."

Of his work at the museum, he says: "My interest is people's history. Museums are full of objects which are the keys to unlocking fantastic stories.

"One of the things I've been involved with is the Liverpool Doors project (doors from across the city were donated to poet Roger McGough and book artist Mark Cockram following a public appeal) which people have loved because it's so different. It was a hard project to put together in lots of ways - but it's been great to see the looks on people's faces and how they have reacted to it.

"I was also involved in Wondrous Place. I worked on its writers' exhibition, which involved making films of Liverpool writers like Jimmy McGovern, Phil Redmond, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Alan Bleasdale, Willy Russell and Carla Lane.

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