For the past few months the Chippenham Museum team have been joined by Bath Spa University student Rachel Dacey for her placement. Studying for a Master’s degree in Heritage Management, Rachel has researched, planned and installed a social history exhibit focused on the influence that Westinghouse Brake & Signal Co. had on the everyday lives of people around Chippenham.
Rachel reflects on her placement with Chippenham Museum with a guest blog post:
“When committing to the project of designing a social history exhibit of Westinghouse, I was a little bit lost with where to start. As an American who had never heard of Westinghouse before, how do I begin to understand what this place meant to the town of Chippenham and do that justice in an exhibit of its own? Over the last four months, I’ve been attempting to do just that.
I began my time with Chippenham Museum in mid-March during my second trimester at Bath Spa University; completing my degree in Heritage Management. During my first meeting with Elaine, Mel, and Alan it was suggested I complete a social history exhibit on Westinghouse and its Chippenham-based predecessors. This was pretty much my first exposure to not only the Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company but also to exhibit design.
I knew that before even thinking about what to put in the museum exhibits, I had to understand the full impact Westinghouse had on Chippenham. The process began by first getting to know the Westinghouse collection held by Chippenham Museum – an assortment of things from sports trophies to doodles to branded coffee mugs. Being a social history exhibit, these are the items that I wanted to focus on, staying away from the industrial side of Westinghouse altogether. It was everyday objects like these that, in my opinion, show the impact Westinghouse had on the people employed by the company.
Choosing the objects itself was daunting. There were so many items tied to the social history of Westinghouse that initially all I could do was make a list of all of the objects that I wanted to use. After completing my list I broke that down in to subjects such as: “The Early Days,”; “Westinghouse Sports,”; “Westinghouse Community,”; “Caricatures & Inside Jokes,” and lastly, “Westinghouse and the War Effort.” It was these subjects that I felt told the most complete story of what it was like to be a part of the Westinghouse story in Chippenham. For over 100 years the railway industry had a home in Chippenham, and that industry drew employees from all over the world – resulting in both a population and economic boom for Chippenham.
The exhibit is currently open until late September/early October and features a range of objects from Westinghouse Bowls Club memorabilia to a shrapnel casing weighing roughly 18lbs! Come see what life was like outside of the works walls and gauge just how much Westinghouse meant to the community of Chippenham.”