Women’s History Network Community History Prize 2017

Sponsored by the History Press

Twenty two entries were received for the WHN Community History Prize 2017, nine of which were shortlisted for final consideration by the Panel.

The field was wide this year, with entries submitted for the first time by organisations from France and Northern Ireland.  Scotland, England and Wales were well represented, and we received another excellent entry from Glasgow Women’s Library, the 4th in as many years.

The Panel elected to divide the 2017 prize between two winners:

JOINT WINNER: TYNE & WEAR MUSEUMS, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, for Tiny Sparks at Discovery Museum

The project: Tiny Sparks, a museum session for 2-4 year old children, promotes gender equality and raises aspirations in young children. The sessions introduce inspirational women in history such as Helen Sharman and Ada Lovelace. Children engage in object handling and fun activities relating to the S.T.E.M. ‘occupations’ of each historic figure.

Judges comments: The judges were unanimous in applauding Tyne & Wear Museums for finding such a creative way of engaging such young children and their carers with women’s history and encouraging them to make their own discoveries in future.  The activity offers a superb introduction to gender equality, science history and women’s history.

They were also impressed that this was a project sustained and supported over many weeks, making a real difference in the way that children and young people view the world. It didn’t require a large budget or several members of staff, and is a wonderful example of a museum team thinking outside the box.  It’s great to see the activity is now part of the museum service’s regular learning programme.  Well done!


JOINT WINNER: MONMOUTHSHIRE MUSEUMS SERVICE, WALES for Monmouthshire Women Making Change

The project: The exhibition ‘Monmouthshire Women Making Change’ explores the contribution women have made to Suffrage, the War effort, agriculture, the Peace Movement and how they have improved women’s lives, locally and globally. It was a collaborative exhibition curated by an intergenerational group of volunteers, made up of a graduate, two university students and a member of the community, working with community organisations. A Welsh Baccalaureate resource and day school is running alongside.

Judges comments: The judges were unanimous in praising the achievements of all concerned – to achieve so many partnerships and engagements on a small budget is truly impressive.  The museum has shown excellent practice in involving the community in shaping and interpreting exhibitions using previously unseen collections.

The icing on the cake has been provided by the enthusiastic way in which community groups of all ages and cultures have worked together to bring their own material to illuminate the women’s histories brought to light.

The panel were truly uplifted to see a small rural museum working so creatively and are delighted to offer it joint first prize.


Two more projects were highly commended. 

HIGHLY COMMENDED #1: FOOTPRINTS WOMEN’S CENTRE, BELFAST, for Through Our Eyes: A photographic study of the changing face of West Belfast

The project: Footprints Women’s Centre’s ‘50 Plus Group’ carried out a research project into their local area. They explored the heritage and history of West Belfast, focussing on traditional industries, businesses, health provision and social conditions. They looked at the decline of industries and how the area has developed since.

Judges comments: The judges felt that this project precisely hit the spot in terms of community engagement and skills development.  The book was beautifully produced and the judges enjoyed reading the ladies’ reminiscence of the sites explored.  It was clear that this project was of real benefit to the ladies in the group, both because of the historical research and the confidence they developed through participation.

HIGHLY COMMENDED #2:  MANCHESTER METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY AND CLAPHAM FILM UNIT, MANCHESTER, for The Women’s Peace Crusade 1917-1918: Crusading women in Manchester and East Lancashire

The project: Volunteers, local archivists and academics explored the development of the generally unremembered Women’s Peace Crusade in the industrial North during the last two years of the First World War, focusing on a number of key textile towns in East Lancashire and Greater Manchester. The project resulted in a short film, exhibitions, a book, a film/speaking tour and lots of fun!

Judges comments: The judges were very impressed by how successfully this project promoted community engagement and skills development.  The scale of the engagement and the creative ambition are truly impressive.   The panel were glad to see how the volunteer researchers were involved at all stages and loved the quality of the final film, which included both contemporary marchers singing old songs and costumed characters moving through the modern landscape like robust and sensibly-shod ghosts.

The following projects were shortlisted:

STÉPHANIE TROUILLARD, OF FRANCE 24, AND THE LYCÉE JEAN DE LA FONTAINE, PARIS, for Webdocumentary ‘If I ever come back: A French schoolgirl’s letters from the Holocaust’

In 2010, a collection of wartime letters and photographs was discovered in an old cupboard at a high school in Paris. Forgotten for years, the letters were written by a former pupil, Louise Pikovsky, to her beloved school teacher during World War Two.

ON THE RECORD CIC AND BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE, LONDON, for A Hackney Autobiography: Remembering Centerprise

A Hackney Autobiography recorded the history of groundbreaking community centre, bookshop and publisher, Centerprise, which was based in Hackney (1971-2012), producing a ‘poetic Sat-Nav’ app and publishing an oral history of the centre. A Hackney Autobiography was staffed by women and involved a large number of women volunteers.

CRAIGAVON MUSEUM SERVICES, COUNTY ARMAGH, NORTHERN IRELAND, for Taking Liberties: The Fight for the Woman’s Vote Travelling Exhibition Outreach Programme

The team created a travelling exhibition which explored the local story of the fight for female equality during the 1800s and early 1900s in County Armagh, focussing on key local events and personalities involved in the advance of female equality in the fields of education, suffrage and employment. Between 2015 to 2017, the exhibition visited 14 public venues in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area. The team also  developed a public lecture series, and incorporated the research into their school outreach programme.

PROJECT SOMALI COMMUNITY ORGANISATION, BIRMINGHAM, for “The Bright and Dark Colours of My Life

Empowerment project for Somali women living in Birmingham. 5 women gave their intimate and powerful personal testimonies of their lives, Somali culture and the devastating impact of female genital mutilation in their lives and community.

GLASGOW WOMEN’S LIBRARY, SCOTLAND,  for Lesbian Archive Development Project at Glasgow Women’s Library

This project involved GWL working with women from the LGBT community, forming a core team to engage with the UK National Lesbian Archive collection housed at GWL and create a Toolkit and online resource. Workshops brought key ‘stories’ and histories to life, finding connections between historical and contemporary LGBT women’s politics and activism.

Entries were also received from:

  • Eastside Community Heritage, Barking & Dagenham, London, for Women’s Football – The East End Story
  • Sheffield Feminist Archive, Yorkshire, for Sheffield Feminist Archive
  • National Trust Quarry Bank, Lancashire, for A Woman’s Work is Never Done
  • Inkbrew Productions, for Burnley’s Lesbian Liberator
  • Pins & Feathers Productions CIC, for Seeing it Through: The story of the home front in East Hertfordshire, 1914-18
  • National Trust Croome Court, Worcestershire, for Plumlines
  • The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles for Talking Quilts : Saving Quilters stories
  • Ros Martin, poet, and the University of Bristol Literary Archaeology Project for Being Rendered Visible In The Georgian House
  • Caroline Paige for True Colours: My Life as the First Transgender Officer in the British Armed Forces
  • The Mary Quaile Club, Manchester, for Manchester & Salford Women’s Trade Union Council Transcription Project
  • Penny Anderson, artist, Glasgow, Scotland, for Words of Washerwomen
  • Olivia Wright & Emily Brady, University of Nottingham, for Women’s History Month 2017 at The University of Nottingham
  • Diana Watt and Adele Jones, Manchester Metropolitan University, for Abasindi Black Women’s Co-operative
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