The National Justice Museum is a very special place. Not only is it a key cultural site for the city of Nottingham but, being the only justice museum of its kind in the UK, a place of educational importance as well – working not just in Nottingham but at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, and at sites across the North West. I spoke with Ste Oliver, the National Justice Museum’s Learning Manager in Nottingham, to talk about some of the projects that the National Justice Museum has been involved with and its relationship to the arts, culture, and education within Nottingham and beyond.
Fundamentally, the National Justice Museum is a place that celebrates the history of the justice system but also brings to light issues of social justice and inequality within an educational context. The museum expresses this through its many wonderful exhibitions and magical tours (Ste is an excellent tour guide!), but to truly be a museum for all, as Ste describes, it is vital to create an environment for everyone to have a voice in the museum – and the voices of children and young people in particular. The National Justice Museum’s educational projects, and the team behind them, work incredibly hard to empower children and young people, and encourage these voices to be heard. Below are a few pictures that showcase the creativity of children from local primary schools (Edale Rise, Windmill School, William Booth and Sneinton Church of England) who were involved with the museum’s Refugee Awareness Week Project.The children created pieces using suitcases supplied by the National Justice Museum: the internal side of the suitcase representing the emotional baggage a refugee child might bring with them to their country of asylum, and the external side representing the emotionally healing elements of being a British citizen and the British values that they study in school. This became a temporary museum exhibit, located on the stairs.
Alongside giving children and young people a voice through the arts, Ste explains how important it is for the National Justice Museum to do as much as possible for supporting schools, and ultimately children, in these projects. This can include supplying the art materials for pieces made during the Refugee Awareness Week Project, for example, but also going out to the schools themselves during these projects to reduce the potential barriers to students’ extracurricular activities that come with increasingly tight school budgets. Support is the key word here, and the National Justice Museum is passionate about their role in helping schools to celebrate children’s artistic abilities when it may prove to be challenging. One form of artistic expression is poetry, and the National Justice Museum is in the process of collaborating with the National Literacy Trust to provide children and young people with the opportunity to write and read their own poems inspired by the museum. While the NLT is hosting the event (expected next year – keep an eye out!), the museum will be providing the historic Exercise Yard for the event to happen.
Creating the space for children and young people’s projects is not only an important step for promoting their engagement with arts and culture in Nottingham, but mutually enriching for all collaborators involved.This type of collaborative enrichment is one of the central visions of ChalleNGe, which the National Justice Museum is part. Collaboration can happen on many different scales, and it can be incredibly rewarding for everyone involved to be open to all sorts of collaborations – as the projects above show! Being a part of ChalleNGe, as Ste tells me, reminds him of how important it is to be an educationally driven partner. All the people at the ChalleNGe meetings have a great passion for getting children and young people invested in culture and the arts, and for Ste that is incredibly inspiring.
“Collaboration is giving a child a voice and it feels like the only thing that comes out of that is positive... If you’re not heard then you’re not equal”
The National Justice Museum collaborates with:
• Local Primary Schools
• University of Derby
• Nottinghamshire LGBT Society
• National Literacy Trust
• Theatre Royal