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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Jelley

Museum Experience Storywalks

Last month I worked with Huish Episcopi Academy at the Glastonbury Rural Life museum during the Gather-ing exhibition in their Tithe Barn. The session was designed to unravel the stories behind the artists installations and as the commissioned poet, tasked to design the interpretation for this exhibition, I was keen to link my poem in to the days session but didn't want this to dominate the day. So I created a trial 'keyword Storywalk' through the gallery, employing the Storywalk system to create a simple riddle based puzzle through the barn.

The concept is very simple, write a riddle or clue, the solution for which can only be solved by investigating the art and museum space. The first riddle starts like this :-

This walk begins in the courtyard and then journeys into The Gather-ing exhibition in the tithe barn. Here is the riddle for your first keyword. Iron fetlocks Iron flanks iron bridle, mane and shanks Four hard hooves quarter the courtyard square Greeting visitors with a shy iron stare But what is my name?

When in the museum it is quite obvious that the riddle points to the iron horse, the sculpture of which sits boldly in the museum courtyard, but the final question 'what is my name' is the stumper - you have to be in location to read the plaque and garner that info. Whilst writing this little blog, I had to dig back into the Storywalks Engine to find the answer as I had forgotten too!

The answer is actually 'Punch'

And when typed in to the Storywalk the next chapter and riddle is revealed. But making riddles too simplistic would have squandered an opportunity, by using the keyword system I could engage the pupils further, ask them to look harder and for longer and drink in the great work created for this exhibition.

This was the next riddle :-

Mapped in copper These are Jacky's tools Soldered and welded they now ghost the land All tools once graced by the heft of the hand And Jacky's artefacts are pierced and etched With words of places, lands and grounds But only one is the keyword to be found. Start with the pierced and most easy to read.

Jacky's works are intricate layers of etchings and piercings, depicting maps, census records and manuscripts creating a busy textured and layered artefact which becoming more complex the deeper you look, absolutely ideal for a keyword puzzle! But perhaps too ideal, as there were a couple of groups which did stumble at this keyword riddle, although they just needed to be a little more methodical in their processes, just too keen to solve and move on so they could beat the other groups.

The answer to this riddle was in fact 'Threshing' which is the act of knocking freshly harvested fronds of grasses like barley or rye so that the seeds fall from the ears at the top of the stalk.

So the great news is that since this little trial I've been awarded a small Arts Council England grant to investigate this keyword Storywalk system a little further. I'll be working with The Museum of Somerset in Taunton and three (perhaps four) specially chosen schools who are already on board. But there will be opportunities for more schools to become involved too so please spread the word to your local school.

The Storywalk at the Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury is still available, although the exhibition itself will close tomorrow (11th November 2017) at which point the answers to the riddles will be hard to impossible! So I will leave you with one more which refers to the poem I wrote for this commission called 'Hollow Husk' and the cheat codes below.

Here is the riddle

These are words to set the scene A poem to keep the visitors keen And get beneath the tiles and tithing skin When folks of all ages grafted till they dropped And then brethren would take their tenth this crop For the keyword read, that you must 'is this the final tithe of this . . . . . '

The walk - and the keywords are in order :-




Hollow Husk

(not telling you this one!)


The Gathering Exhibition and inspirED sessions were commissioned by Somerset Arts Works, the works are due to go into storage for future installation at a Tithe Barn near you!

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