Co-operative researcher Angela Whitecross is bringing her interest in co-operative history and previous experience of working as a community engagement officer in Teeside together as she steps into the shoes of Community Outreach Officer for the ROCHDALE Project.
Angela is in the final year of a PhD looking at the Co-operative Party’s relationship with the Labour Party, jointly supervised by the Co-operative College in Manchester and the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. Spending a lot of time in the National Co-operative Archive, she has been exploring why the two parties have had a relationship historically, and why it continues today. Angela is now writing up her research, looking at themes such as policy and MPs, and will submit her thesis in October. Angela says that her experience of working with communities, combined with her passion for co-operative history, meant the chance to work with diverse groups of people in Rochdale was “a really interesting opportunity for me”.
Angela is currently working on programming events at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, including a major multi-agency event which will build on last year’s International Year of Co-operatives, when the spotlight was on Rochdale and the Rochdale Pioneers Museum as the birthplace of modern co-operation, and events will also tie in with the theme of this year’s Co-operatives Fortnight (22 June-6 July), ‘Local, Loved and Trusted’. Part of Angela’s role involves developing activities for families and other groups who will be visiting the Museum over the summer; one activity will show what shopping was like at difference periods in time, and will involve not just reminiscing about the changing nature of shopping and society, but celebrating the ethical values demonstrated by co-operative societies throughout history.
Angela will also be working to set up a temporary exhibition space in the Museum to act as an evaluation and consultation space for people to share ideas, which she hopes will enable communities to “feel that they have a voice in the museum”. Exhibitions will change every six months, and Angela hopes the first exhibition will coincide with an exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester to mark the 150th anniversary of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS), giving an opportunity to highlight the links between members of the Rochdale Pioneers and the CWS. Angela aims to work with local history groups on the exhibition, as a way of sharing knowledge and developing the heritage skills of different groups of museum visitors. The temporary exhibition space will also allow items to be brought out of the collection that aren’t usually on display.
As she settles into the job, Angela intends to build up a number of resources which can be used by Museum staff, both internally and externally, and she hopes it is the first step in a career where she can bridge the gap between academia and heritage learning.