, ,

This is the second group I’ve been on, assisting in creating an exhibition for Upton House. The scope and scale of this Shell Exhibition meant that volunteering to research an aspect involved a lot of people. I, along with another volunteer investigated how the Shell fortune came into being. Like all research the more you investigate the more questions and gaps in knowledge become evident. But that’s what spurred me on, plus the excitement of this new exhibition.


There is often little information all in one place which means a lot of searching in a variety of media, opposing facts and figures confusing the picture with telephone calls and emails to people who might put you back on the right road or point you in the right direction. It’s absorbing as a picture begins to emerge of how the Shell fortune came about. It revealed how the people involved were very human – their frailties, their great moments, their sorrows and tragedies are all revealed, in spite of their richness and importance.


The 1st Viscount and his wife opening Maidstone Museum in 1924

The 1st Viscount opening a wing of Maidstone Museum, 1924

Another joy of this work is reviewing all the information then trying to distil it down to a readable piece. Paper, paper everywhere, lost sheets of paper, rechecking facts, thinking about layout, how it will integrate with what some of the other volunteers are doing and how it will fit into the overall exhibition. It’s all a necessary part of doing the work.


One of our project group meetings with paper all over the table!

One of our project group meetings with paper all over the table!

Yet another enjoyable aspect is working alongside fellow volunteers and the Upton House staff. It’s the enthusiasm, excitement and socialising that makes these occasions a pleasure to be involved in as we cross fertilise and contribute to each others pieces. It transcends also to outsiders who we contact and who become as enthused wanting to contribute whatever they can. As time draws nearer to the opening, it becomes a bit like a theatrical performance. Everybody involved is scrambling to pull everything together, chase everything up, check and recheck, deal with mini and major crises, produce an opening ceremony that will attract the sponsors and visitors.


Jane, Nigel and Victor at our Shell exhibition launch

Jane, Nigel and Victor at our Shell exhibition launch

It really is stimulating to be part of this event, and now the exhibition is launched, I really love guiding in there and seeing it open to the public.

To listen to Victor introducing the Shell exhibition, click here.