(29th January – 17th March 2018) Local artist Dr Michele Allen installed a small exhibition of her work in the Library at the Great North Museum: Hancock in Spring 2018. The exhibition featured a selection of photographs along with selected items from the archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria.
Over the course of a year Michele worked in collaboration with Dr Siobahn Daly, a social scientist who has written extensively about philanthropy. The project set out to explore the legacy of philanthropy in North East England, thinking in particular about different definitions of philanthropy and some of the tensions those definitions reveal. Is philanthropic work solely defined by wealthy donors? Is it simply about the donation of money or should we consider philanthropy in the full spirit of voluntary action? How can we reveal the full spectrum of philanthropic work which is often invisible? What does the history of philanthropy illuminate about the present situation in public life when we see unprecedented cuts to public funding and calls for the private sector and members of the community to step in?
The exhibition and resulting hand-made book was a meditation on these questions. A document of the sites, archives, donations and voluntary work they had encountered in trying to explore these ideas. It reveals the diversity of the activity they had found.
Since some of their research had drawn on the materials held in the archives of the Natural History Society, focusing in particular on the numerous donations of both time, money and objects which fed into the creation of the Hancock Museum, alongside other public institutions and parks, the Great North Museum: Hancock library seemed a fitting place to exhibit the work.
As part of the project handmade books were donated to the libraries of the Lit and Phil and the Natural History Society of Northumbria.
This work has been produced as a result of a Leverhulme Trust Artist’s residency hosted by Northumbria University.
For more information on Michele’s Project click here.