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Working safely through COVID-19: Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

Tullie House (D&H Photographers) Tullie House (D&H Photographers)

Tullie House is an outstanding, inclusive and resilient museum that uses its collections and extensive cultural programme to develop and engage local people and tourists.

Tullie House Museum has collected the history of Carlisle and Cumbria for over 125 years. The collections tell the stories of the people who have lived and worked in Cumbria, and those who love the county.

Along with many public buildings, businesses and workplaces Tullie House closed in order to help combat the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic. All of the team are now either working from home or furloughed to protect the wellbeing of the staff and secure the sustainability of the museum. We thank Carlisle City Council and Arts Council England; without their continued support, and that of Government, we couldn’t continue.

However, not even COVID-19 can stop the talented and creative Tullie House staff from coming up with new and innovative ways to engage with their community far and wide.  For example, you can take the curator out of the museum, but they will “Carry on...Curating”! This mini-series, along with a Twitter Tour of the Stainton archaeological dig and collection jigsaws show how Tullie House is continuing to use its collection to inspire and engage. These activities have been shared through significant international hashtags such as #MuseumFromHome #MuseumUnlocked #CultureInQuarantine #creativityandwellbeing.

One of the museum’s most famous paintings, 'The Rift within the Lute', set to be redisplayed in Old Tullie House following a year spent touring major Japanese museums. The painting has received recent social media interest following TV comedian Marek Larwood’s attempts to recreate this Tullie favourite in just 15 minutes. View Marek’s ’Mediocre Masterpiece’ on YouTube to see how he got on.

Families are a huge segment of the Tullie House audience; it’s been vitally important to keep them included through the many brilliant ‘How to’ video craft guides and LEGO® Challenges via the Tullie House social media pages.  Timely highlights include a Virtual Easter Egg Hunt and VE Day Quest proving very popular with digital puzzlers of all ages and boosting website visits to over 3,000 per quest.

The Tullie House Community Engagement team who normally run the Afternoon at the Museum sessions for adults living with dementia and their carers shared short videos of creative activities specially designed for older adults experiencing memory loss, to ease and enrich this time of social distancing.

Andrew Mackay, Tullie House Director, said: “Tullie House is very much at the heart of the community. Continued communications with our visitors are essential, not only to maintain engagement but to support health and wellbeing during this pandemic.”

Tullie House continues to work on the Hope Streets project which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Kick the Dust fund, in partnership with Curious Minds. The Festival of Hope is a pioneering festival that places young people at the heart of design, making, programming and production. The museum is working closely with a group of young producers and industry professionals to create a digital festival which celebrates creativity, heritage and diversity. The Festival of Hope will include online and offline events that are interactive, engaging and inspiring during this unique time in history.

Lindsey Atkinson, Tullie House Community and Young Person Coordinator, said: ''The development of this project is incredibly exciting, the museum is learning a lot from this process. Finding creative ways to make our activity available online has always been a priority for us as it's a way to access and connect with more people. We're now able to experiment and propel ourselves into the world of digital engagement, while creating a platform for young people in Carlisle to be heard.''

Tullie House is also looking forward by considering how we will remember and interpret the current crisis after it has passed. The museum is seeking to collect photographs of first-hand experiences to record the Cumbrian experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will ensure a record can be kept for future generations to learn about and understand this extraordinary period.

Gabrielle Heffernan, Tullie House Curatorial Manager, said: “It is vital for the Museum to collect and record the current situation as it evolves and how the pandemic has been experienced by our local communities. This moment is your moment and the stories of COVID-19 are your stories. For that we need your help.”

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