A dedicated team of staff is getting ready to reopen the Rochdale Pioneers Museum this summer – and welcome the public to a unique co-operative experience. Museum Manager Jennifer Broadbent and Museum Guides Clare Hirst and Jonathan Priestley are now in post, and will be based at the Co-operative College in Manchester until the Museum is ready to reopen following a major refurbishment.
New Museum Manager Jenny, who has a degree in History from Oxford, and a Masters in Museum Studies from Leicester University, admitted: “I have learned so much more than I ever thought there was to know just in my first week!”
Jenny was previously Collections Officer at Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, and is looking forward to stepping up to the role of Museum Manager. She said: “It’s nice that we are all new and enthusiastic and have ideas. Being involved at the start of the Museum means you can put your own stamp on it and develop the Museum the way you want it. I’m looking forward to getting things running smoothly.”
Jenny is passionate about social history, and is a committee member of the Social History Curators Group. She is especially keen on looking after the Museum’s collections and making them accessible. At school, Jenny always enjoyed learning about alternative, people’s history, such as the Chartists and the Poor Laws. She said: “I’m looking forward to being able specialise in a certain period in history, find out more about the Pioneers and share it with others. We need to bring the Museum alive!” Jenny is also interested in family history, and expects a lot of visitors to come along with questions about family members who worked for the Co-op.
The Toad Lane Museum will have a dedicated education space, on a new mezzanine level, and Jenny aims to use the Museum’s collections to develop citizenship programmes and extend family programmes. She said: “I’m looking forward to bringing in lots of different groups of people, especially schools. I’m looking forward to meeting people from all over the world. We need to make sure we use the education space as much as possible.” Jenny also hopes to develop volunteer activity and train volunteers in object handling.
Clare Hirst and Jonathan Priestley were both born and raised in Rochdale, and admit they will be trying to remember what they learned during school visits to the Pioneers Museum! Both recall the Museum, pre-refurbishment, being “very small and dusty and old”, but are proud of the town’s co-operative heritage and are pleased that the revamped museum will enable the story to be shared with generations to come.
“Rochdale gets a lot of bad press and people forget the good things about the town. We want to make people feel more positive and we will hopefully bring more people into the town. We want people to leave the Museum with a very positive memory,” explained Clare
Clare, who studied Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan University, specialising in printmaking, still lives in Rochdale and previously worked at the town’s Touchstones Arts and Heritage Centre and Tourist Information. She said: “I just love the gallery and museum environment. I’m really interested in museum objects.”
Clare also previously worked in the community arts team at the Co-operative Academy of Manchester, and on transition programmes at the school, so she is looking forward to welcoming school groups to the Museum. She said: “The education aspect of the job really appealed to me. I’m looking forward to sharing information with people of all different ages and backgrounds and doing a bit of everything.”
Clare is also looking forward to working for an organisation driven by the co-operative values and principles. She said: “It’s nice that there are co-operative values where we work and they’ve got your interest at heart.”
Jonathan has a degree in Archaeology from Manchester University, which included industrial heritage and looking around old warehouses in the city’s Northern Quarter, and a Masters from University College London. He has experience teaching English as a foreign language in London and in Scandinavia, and is particularly interested in Norse and North American history. He said: “I’ve always been very hands-on. I’ve always been interested in anything heritage and history.”
As well as telling the inspiring story of the Rochdale Pioneers and their co-operative legacy, the Museum will feature thematic displays, starting with examples of artwork and projects led by Outreach officers from the Co-operative Heritage Trust. It will also be open for evening events such as lectures. All three Museum staff look forward to answering your questions when the Museum reopens, and sharing the story of the Rochdale Pioneers. We await your visit!
Keep up to date with the latest news from the Museum, including opening dates and times, at www.rochdalepioneersmuseum.coop.