November 2023 is a significant milestone for us, as we mark the completion of year one of our two-year project funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation (GWF) to digitise our Ovaltine collection.
The ambition for the Ovaltine in Dacorum project is to provide the public with improved accessibility to our Ovaltine collection by the digitisation of a total of 10,830 objects, ranging from advertising materials, packaging and artefacts associated with the factory and farm at Kings Langley. Digitisation will enable the public to explore the collection through online and print.
Year one of our two-year funding from the GWF has allowed us to begin these activities. As of November 2023, we have now digitised 150 films from the collection and photographed 233 items.
Our photographer from Sarah Stephens Photography, who has experience in working on museum collections, photographed 233 Ovaltine objects. We tried to photograph the variety of the collection, focusing on packaging and advertising. We also captured some of the items which are much harder to photograph, such as paintings behind glass frames and the larger three-dimensional advertising stands.
We will use these digital assets in year two when we focus on engagement. We are currently in talks with a film making company to create a film with input from young people. Our engagement plans will also include an oral history programme, further development to our website and producing a printed catalogue to make the collection available to those who do not have internet access. Follow us on social media or via our newsletter for more information and updates in 2024.
On 2 November 2023, Dacorum Heritage (DH) held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Berkhamsted Town Hall. Attended by DH’s Board and Members, the AGM discussed and approved our Annual Report and Financial Statements, which were also independently examined.
We were pleased to approve the appointment of Khaled Galal as our new Director of Communications and Cllr William Allen as our new Director and Dacorum Borough Council Liaison.
Khaled brings decades of experience in communications in arts and culture. He has worked on projects across the UK and the Middle East, with large organisations such as the European Union, Amnesty International, and the Grand Egyptian Museum.
Cllr Allen is the Mayor of Dacorum and serves as a committee member for the Boxmoor Good Neighbours and as a trustee for Community Action Dacorum. He is a history teacher and sixth form lead at Roman Fields Academy.
Learn more about our new team members here.
Our Annual Open Meeting was held immediately after our AGM. This was a chance for the public to look at DH’s great work over the past year and our plans for the year to come. We reported on the unveiling of our 30th anniversary artwork, which is currently on display at the Forum in Hemel Hempstead. We shared our refreshed Strategic Aims, which explain how we keep Collections, Communities and Sustainability at the heart of our work. Our Strategic Aims can be read here and downloadable below.
We were thrilled to announce our successful application to the National Lottery Heritage Resilience Fund and to introduce The Dacorum Heritage 30:30 Project. This project will analyse our current cultural offer and map out our future needs and development opportunities. The project will involve the input of several consultancies to help us create a Statement of Requirements for the premises that would be needed for DH to operate effectively. We look forward to sharing more details as this project picks up speed.
We then reported on our public engagement activity from the past year. This included our 30th anniversary, which we marked with a social media showcase of 30 objects from the collection and by unveiling a new piece of artwork, involving these objects, created by artist Marli Jessop. This year we received the Hertfordshire Association of Museums Inclusion Award and developed our website to continue to engage with more audiences. With the support of the Royal Society, we also released a new loan box ‘The science behind… fireworks’ for schools to create a fun and informative lesson based on Dacorum’s history of firework production. 2023 was also a busy year for our education outreach programme. We ran heritage crafts workshops for local Scouts groups, hosted two work experience students, and supervised a university work placement student who created our first online exhibition, ‘The Ovaltine Girl and her advertising journey.’
We provided an overview of our collections activity, which has involved continued work to digitise our collection of Ovaltine films and photography through funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation. We have also been steadily reviewing our collection documentation and procedures in anticipation of our museum re-accreditation. We were pleased to report that we have obtained a number of new acquisitions in line with our Collections Development Policy: First World War and Boer War Medals; a late 20th century Girl Guide uniform; the ‘Doves’ community artwork to commemorate 100 years since the end of First World War ; and our 30th anniversary artwork. In the coming year, we will continue to digitise our Ovaltine collection, develop our Documentation Manual, and improve the storage of our collection.
Documents as downloads
Following our successful online talk for Heritage Open Days back in September, we have planned two further online presentations for you. The first will take place on Friday 1 December 2023 at 7pm.
Tickets are pay as much as you want. All money raised allows us to continue our work to preserve history and inspire communities. Book now via the link below to join the guest list.
Comments from pervious online talks
'Thank you so very much for a wonderful hour looking at items and information from your store.'
'That was brilliant....it worked really well!'
There are a number of alternative pathways into museums and heritage careers for you to explore.
Volunteering, if you can, is a great way to get practical experience and test which roles interest you. Work experience offers similar opportunities. Many organisations will also pay travel expenses for volunteers. Job applications will often ask for evidence of volunteering. You’ll get practical experience and test which roles interest you.
Apprenticeships are paid, on the job training and available across the heritage sector. From Stonemason to Conservator and with a range of entry requirements, there is an apprenticeship for everyone.
Non-Heritage Specific Roles are available in most organisations, e.g. finance and marketing, which look for transferable skills and experience from outside the heritage sector.
Public Relations roles help museums communicate with the public. They can include running social media, organising events, press, marketing and communications.
Being digital is crucial to museums. Practically every digital skillset is needed in museums, e.g: Digital Art Designers to develop a museum’s online presence; Digital Content Developer (website development), and Digital Producer (digital exhibition elements) are some of the roles you may see.
Engagement programmes are a big part of most museum’s purpose. This might include working directly with children and community groups in workshops, or with university students to facilitate their research.
Climate Change related roles are opening up as museums work to reduce their carbon emissions.
Curatorial and Conservation play a fundamental role in museums. Working directly with the artefacts, they help interpret their story and preserve them for future generations.
Fundraising from creating engaging events to membership & donation programmes, most museums wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for fundraising.
Operations & Estates maintain the business side of museums, including financial & business planning, HR, the Board of Trustees, and site management (buildings and grounds).
Get involved and search on an organisation’s website for volunteering opportunities or check out the below:
Here are some quotes from our regular volunteers:-
"Great for building new skills"
"I have enjoyed finding out what is in the loan boxes and developing new resources and worksheets that will help bring history alive"
"Socially it's great – really feel like part of the team"
To celebrate our 30th anniversary in 2023, we selected 30 objects from the collection. These objects reflected the breadth of history in the borough of Dacorum. A call-out was made to emerging artists to interpret this collection of objects into one piece of artwork. This artwork would be exhibited and then subsequently added to the museum’s collection. Marli Jessop was selected and commissioned to create this final piece. She has worked to combine and connect the artefacts into the final piece of art titled ‘30 pieces of history’, which is now on display at The Forum, Hemel Hempstead, alongside a description of all 30 objects.
About the artist
Marli is a GB athlete and a student of fine art at Buckinghamshire University, specialising in portraiture. She grew up in Hertfordshire and knows the area of Dacorum well, having competed for Dacorum and Tring Athletics Club for many years.
What we loved about Marli’s application was that her proposal included examples of how she thought she could layer many of the objects in a collage style. The fact that she is a portraiture artist will also enable us to highlight some of the people behind our objects, such as Ophelia (the woman discovered in 1971 at the Cow Roast Romano British site) and Reginald Jack Evans (awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his reconnaissance work during the First World War).
In the film below, Marli answers some questions about her work and the piece she has created.
For many schools in Dacorum, the week of 10th July is Work Experience Week. This year two pupils from Ashlyns School came to Dacorum Heritage to contribute to our museum mission!
Emmy and Emily spent the week being ‘museum curators’, learning the art of museum curation and thinking about how museums in the future might connect to their local communities. At the end of the week, they gave a presentation of their ideas, alongside everything they had learned, to our board.
We tasked them to create a display for our case in Berkhamsted Library around a theme of their choice. They chose the theme of ‘Berkhamsted High Street over time’ and we encourage you to visit and see the items that they selected to display.
From all of us at Dacorum Heritage, we would like to thank Emmy and Emily for their work and wish them well in their future studies.
This is what they had to say about their experience with Dacorum Heritage.
Doing my work experience with Dacorum Heritage has been a fantastic opportunity and I was able to find out many useful things which will help me in the future. For example, we were taught how to look for artefacts in the stores which was really interesting and something I will never forget. I also learned how to create a display which helped me to understand the hard work which goes into doing this.
From creating the new display, I have gained a new interest in the history of Berkhamsted, particularly the evolution of the High Street which we did our display on. In order to find the artefacts we wanted to use for our display, we were taught how to use the software MODES. This made me realise how many different artefacts there are in the collection and how important it is to take care of them, giving me a newfound appreciation for curators and what they do for our community.
By doing a presentation together at the end of the week, I have become more confident speaking in front of people and it has been a great way to finish the experience, summarising what we have done. My work experience week has made me realise how much I love learning about history and given me an amazing insight into what I want to do as a future career.
Personally, my week at Dacorum Heritage was amazing. I got to learn so much about what happens in a museum behind the scenes. For example learning how to safely handle the artefacts to put together a display. The ability to learn how to do this was unlike anything I could have expected. It was much more work than I first thought, particularly picking the items took a considerable amount of time.
This whole process has given me so much more respect for curators as I didn't realise just how hard looking after collections can be. The experience of creating a social media post was also a great opportunity as I had the ability to help educate others in a fun and engaging way. Overall, my work experience week was a great opportunity, and I would one hundred percent do it again.
Hi, I’m Muzhi Zhang an international student from China. I am currently studying for the Museums and Galleries in Education MA at UCL. Although I originally applied (and was successful!) to do my MA work placement at Dacorum Heritage (DHT) I’ve also been volunteering in DHT’s Collections, helping to select the 30 objects as part of the museum’s 30th anniversary project.
My main task has been to take photographs of the selected objects with the help of our Collections Manager, Therese Clews, and Public Engagement Manager, Nina Glencross. This process involves retrieving items from the Stores, photographing them in DHT’s photography studio, and returning them to their original locations. Therese has also taught me about how to register and package Collections objects. This has given me the opportunity to learn more about Dacorum's history and the memories of its current residents.
It's all so fascinating to me! From all the objects I have photographed, I’ve begun to understand Dacorum's narrative and that DHT has preserved, intact, the history and memories of the area. I’ve worked with medieval brick fragments that are really difficult to put together, but the original designs are still visible on their surface. There is also a kettle that came from the people who lived on the Grand Union Canal, with their distinct, hand painted flowers creating really vibrant household objects.
A box containing artefacts from the Second World War sits quiet and undisturbed, with a layer of dust from some nearby pottery settled on the lid. It provides a glimpse into a period of history when the tranquility and beauty of Dacorum were abruptly disrupted. There are a mix of emotions contained in the Store’s boxes from this time: Nina showed me a love letter between Bruce Da Cunha and Joyce Redding, but there are also other objects from those who were evacuated to Dacorum, who I think would have been worried about their new life and scared for the safety of their families they left behind and those on the frontlines.
The power of common memories is so strong in the Collection that, even as a person who lives in a different country, I can still understand the stories about Dacorum’s communities from the objects in the Collection. This has been different from my past experiences as a volunteer in other museums. At DHT, I’ve had the opportunity to explore the narratives of different communities throughout Dacorum’s history, rather than the typical museum’s focus on large cities and aristocratic objects crafted from gold and gems. I believe museums should not only focus on interpreting the past to present-day audiences, but also on interpreting the present for future generations. This encompasses the essence of collecting, preserving and curating community events.
For the next two months, I will be continuing my placement, focusing on the heritage of the Ovaltine factory in Kings Langley. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next and welcoming more volunteers to join us to help bring back the sweet memories of Ovaltine together.
Year 12 students from Dacorum secondary schools were invited to enter teams of up to eight pupils to the Dragons Apprentice Challenge. The teams were challenged to turn £100 into £1000 or more for a Dacorum charity by means of business-related ideas. The team selected to raise money for Dacorum Heritage came from Tring School. They raised £364 through business initiatives such as the sale of unwanted items, bake sales and a raffle for Halloween. In acknowledgement of their work, our team won an award for Demonstration of Personal Development. When asked what they had learned by taking part in the challenge, the team said that they had learned about the types of setbacks you encounter have when trying to make big profits. They also learnt the importance of reaching out and discovered that people are kind and willing to support small charities.
We’d like to thank both the team at Tring School and Connect Dacorum for organising the challenge.
You might remember that last year we celebrated the news of our funding success from The Royal Society, which has enabled us to create new learning resources. The resources will highlight the stories of science from our local heritage, linking the science and history of Dacorum together for the first time.
For those who don’t know, our new loan boxes will contain a film, which will centre around the theme of ‘The science behind…’ The first resource will be on ‘The science behind fireworks’ and the second will explore ‘The science behind photography’. Of course, these resources will highlight our heritage links to Brocks Fireworks and Kodak.
Since our last newsletter, a great deal has happened in the development of this project and we are excited to share what we’ve achieved so far.
After our call out to schools in Dacorum, five schools signed up to trial our new resource. This was wonderful news as it meant our resources were put into practical use and that the teachers could advise us on how to make the resources as effective as possible. Volunteers Anne and Margaret helped with this process, by devising questions for teacher feedback right from the start. The first set of questions have been completed and these covered questions about museum resources in general and access needs. Once we have finished creating the boxes and they have been trialled at the schools, our volunteers will visit the schools again to find out how they were used, what we could change and hopefully how excited the pupils now feel about science and history.
We recruited a scientist, Dr Sarah Bearchell, who wrote a script and prepped our experiments.
Then over the half term break, with a risk assessment written and a fire extinguisher close to hand, we got to work filming our experiments.
In the film some of the experiments we’ve shown include using a stomp rocket to demonstrate how a rocket uses thrust to go up. We showed how fireworks create colour by using chemicals like strontium, copper and sodium, and we have also explained how we use light to capture an image on negatives.
In the coming months, we look forward to sharing our new resources with our partner schools, and then subsequently to schools across the borough in the new school year.
Every year Hertfordshire County Council’s Museums Development Team launch the Hertfordshire Association of Museums Awards (HAM Awards). This year Dacorum Heritage were up for two awards.
We are excited to announce that we received the HAM Inclusion Award for our project on Fireworks and Festivals.
The award was extremely competitive this year, with seven other museums in the running. We were shocked to learn we had been chosen, especially as we are so inspired by and admire the work of our fellow nominees.
Our main aim for Fireworks and Festivals was to capitalise on the theme and get to know those in our community including local faith groups and cultural organisations, who would not necessarily have connected with us in the past. We did this by inviting them to share their local heritage and festival stories, and to take part in the project.
We had conversations with different communities such as Dacorum Indian Society. We created opportunities for them to take part and they did so by providing materials to display and helping to present these materials in the correct way. The society even created dance shows which not only helped market the exhibition and encouraged people to visit, but also created the celebratory feel and linked together the festivals information with our history of Brocks Fireworks.
We would like to thank Dacorum Indian Society, in particular Jay Vaid.