The Museum has no political or religious affiliation. We are an independent museum and have no core, national or local funding. As a charity we rely on donations and project grants to fund the Museum and our increasingly popular work in outreach and education.

The idea for a Peace Museum came from Gerald Drewett of the Give Peace a Chance Trust in the 1980s and gathered momentum in the 1990s. Through the ‘National Peace Museum Project’, the Museum was established in 1994 with help from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Foundation.

We currently occupy the top floor of one of Bradford’s impressive Victorian buildings, in Piece Hall Yard, in the city centre, known locally as BD1.

The Changing face of the Museum

In 2011 the museum was presented as an open store that was interesting to traditional peace activists, but did little to appeal to a wider audience.

Plans to modernise the museum were set in place in late 2011 with the idea being to have a short closure and a rapid re-opening in January 2012. At the same time the Museum underwent a dramatic change in its staffing structure and the modernisation grew into a complete overhaul, including the re-hanging and re-interpretation of all three galleries. This pushed back the re-opening of the Museum by three months, but the changes were immense.

The emphasis of the re-development was to make the Museum attractive and engaging to more people and from Bradford’s diverse communities.

To do this we needed to look at the local district as well as the national and international dimensions, challenge the visitors and encourage them to relate the heritage on display to their own experiences, attitudes, ideas and lives. As such the thematic approach in the galleries centred around a series of Big Questions for example Who am I? Who are they? Who are we? Why do people say no to war? Is remembrance enough? Speak up, speak out, does it make a difference?

Intergenerational learning
Intergenerational learning

The challenge to share the changes with a wider audience was very successfully achieved through partnership working. A comprehensive education programme for schools was initiated and the firm partnerships developed with Bradford College’s teacher education department, the Schools Linking Network and Bradford Metropolitan District Council means that we now play an important part in exploring and educating for life in a diverse society, in which issues of cohesion, peace and conflict are ever more to the fore.

We currently have two full time members of staff, four interns, a regular (retired curator) volunteer and work with freelance colleagues (historians, community representatives, artists, educators and ICT designers) in addition to people from our partner organisations.

Visitor numbers have swelled. In 2010 approximately 300 people engaged with the Museum. In 2011- 2012 900 casual visitors came through the Museum doors, 7,037 children and young people were involved in Museum led sessions and 944 people engaged through general outreach activities.

What do we do?

In a nutshell using our currently limited exhibition space, we use items from our collection to engage, challenge and inspire visitors. The Museum:

  • offers learning and education activities
  • provides an attractive, stimulating meeting space for local community, faith, cross-agency and local authority groups
  • plans opportunities for interaction and dialogue between members of communities and sectors who may not naturally meet
  • works with all sectors of the community
  • poses questions about choices, equality, diversity, cohesion, conflict, peace and non-violence
  • asks that individuals and groups consider peace and peace-making as a challenge and active, as opposed to passive
  • encourages voice, action and positive citizenship, the sharing of personal experiences and stories

We work with community and faith groups; with young offenders in prison; with schools, colleges and universities; with children in care; offer continuing professional development for teachers and run sessions with initial teacher educators for intending teachers.

What do we do with schools?

We offer support for learning across the curriculum, but particularly for English, the humanities, art, citizenship and SMSC and we offer CPD for teachers and support staff.

Schools visit the Museum and engage in sessions using items from our collections. We work in schools with pupils and teachers, attempting to build longitudinal relationships within and across schools.

We have a Peacemaker peer education project (kindly supported in 2012 by the Soroptimists International Bingley) which involves pupils becoming experts on an aspect of the collection and/or a place on the Routes to Peace Heritage Trail; they work with other children passing on their knowledge of the thing/place/person/event and act as leaders in the Museum and on ‘Trail’ days, for other children and adult groups. They effectively are in charge of the Museum while here and treated as staff members. They range in age from 8 to 16.

Peacemakers meet the Lord Mayor
Peacemakers meet the Lord Mayor

Back in school the Peacemakers work with staff and the school councils to implement measures to help their schools to be more peaceful and cohesive, sometimes they initiate things like a school peace tree, sometimes they ring up and ask if we will speak at an assembly or to the school council! As they move up in school they prepare representatives from the year beneath them to become Peacemakers.

In the very best practice Peacemakers from different primary schools also work together (eight schools in one are partnership did this recently) and when they enter often the same secondary school, they continue the work there.

We are part of the partnership that has organised the Routes to Peace cross agency/community peace season and which culminated in the ‘Big Sing’ for Peace in Centenary Square, involving some 500 children from local schools, our Peacemakers and local singer songwriters, commissioned to write a song for peace with pupils. This event had elements in the Museum, in other partner organisations premises e.g. Kala Sangam, Gallery One, Culture Fusion and the Alhambra Studios, in the local built environment using the Heritage Peace Trail and in Centenary Square. It attracted members of the community and parents as well as the children involved.

What resources do we produce for school and community?

Our most recent resource for all sectors of the community is the Routes to Peace Heritage trail, a walking trail starting at the Museum and taking in significant places around Bradford City Centre. This involves a pocket guide and an Aurasma powered app/channel which features short videos, which can be activated at each site by taking a video of a key image (a street name, a plaque or piece of sculpture for example) using any smart phone, iPod or tablet that has a camera. The videos feature our Peacemakers talking about why the sight is important.

Peacemakers leading children on the 'Routes to Peace Heritage' Trail
Peacemakers leading children on the ‘Routes to Peace Heritage’ Trail

This was project supported by a HLF All Our Stories grant. Its popularity can be judged by the fact that a print run of 2,100 hundred pocket guides dwindled to just 600 in fourteen days!

Teaching resources available from the Museum include the Peace Challenge. A story booklet, teaching resource and peer education strategy for schools and Sport, Courage, Peace and Friendship (with a sporting and Olympic theme) including stories, teacher’s resources and activity plans.

We also produce exhibitions and display materials like the local heritage panels ‘Peace not Prejudice’, the story of Bradford as a city of peace, Story of a Young Girl (Sadako and Kokesi-no-kai), Nobel Peace Laureates and a Vision Shared (art and a history of peace-makers and peace movements).

How do we use emerging technologies?

We use emerging technology at the core of much of what we do. Key items in the collection are QR coded and visitors are encouraged to blog about what they see in the Museum using our devices. We use hand held learning and assessment and quizzes on line (with children asking them to work collaboratively….sometimes pairing children from different schools).

We make our own videos and video walls which often feature our Peacemakers; we use Aurasma technology and find that all this helps (particularly the younger people) engage with the artefacts, exhibitions and subject matter with real enthusiasm.

We have a website, but also make good use of social media, particularly Twitter, tweeting most days to the world and using live twitter feeds in sessions with children and young people.

What projects are in the pipeline?

‘Choices Then and Now’ is our big new project, which will commence in September 2013. This will involve a teacher education project being trialled at Bradford College with 172 student teachers; CPD for serving teachers and a resource, including schemes, planning grids and stories and resources for use in the classroom.

The concept is choices, rights and responsibilities then and now, looking at very different responses and choices made to key events and exploring the consequences of those choices for example.

The resource balances and explores stories of peace-makers, conscientious objectors and Black and Asian people in World War I, with the better known stories of ‘the Great War’. It also explores very recent, current and controversial issues, linked to conflict, the ‘War on Terror’ and 21st century events. Choices is supported by Home Office Funding, via Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

We are planning an interactive, multi-media exhibition (also to be called Choices Then and Now), complete with mock ups of CO’s cells and electronic graffiti walls, which we hope will run from 2016, the centenary of the year conscription became a reality in Britain. We are actively looking for funding sources for this exhibition at the current time.

What does the future hold for the Museum?

The Museum is in the strangest of positions. It is true to say it has never experienced so much interest, use or success, particularly locally from all sectors of the community; we also now have Local Authority and Home Office interest and real support locally.

Our current small, attractive and rather quirky premises have no disabled access and are located in the garret of a substantial Victorian building; we are here with the permission of the National Westminster Bank, which owns the property. The premises are not large enough and access is a perennial problem.

We have been offered by the Lowry Partnership, a new, permanent home in Black Dyke Mills (of brass band fame!), with better access, excellent car parking and a play area. The space extends to 11,000 square feet; it will be refurbished for our use. This is a huge gesture of support in kind. Bradford Council, are also currently exploring the possibility of new premises for the Museum, in the city centre as part of the Culture and Regeneration programme for Bradford 1. We are very, very grateful for these private and local authority endeavours on our behalf.

All this sounds very positive, but there is a sting in the tail or should it be ‘tale’? Without sponsors and a core funding source for staffing and development spanning a minimum of three years, the Museum will struggle to survive for longer than twelve months from September 2013; this is the flip side to our success story.

Needless to say we are actively seeking funding to make sure that we are able to continue our work with children, young people and the community.

We are constantly forging new partnerships with international, national and local organisations to this end, for example with the new Friend Our World initiative, the Workers Education Association and the Queensbury Community Partnership.

Our popularity and the need for what we offer is demonstrated by the recent engagement of a wide range of people and organisations with the Museum, now we just need the finances to move forward and extend our work still further.

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