South Yorkshire museum takeover delves into invisible histories of region - including witchcraft

The ‘invisibles’ of history - unseen and overlooked people from the past - have taken centre stage at Danum Museum in Doncaster.

Thursday, 30th December 2021, 10:19 am

They are part of a ground-breaking new exhibition, Changing the Record, that’s helping to rewrite the history books.

Changing the Record is the work of a new generation of volunteer historians on a mission to repopulate the historical landscape with ‘missing people’ who deserve a stronger voice in the historical record. They’ve made extraordinary and unexpected discoveries that are shedding new light on centuries of South Yorkshire history.

In true radical fashion, the exhibition won’t be confined to traditional glass cases, but will instead be bursting out across the museum in a takeover trail that aims to challenge long-held perspectives on the past.

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This picture of Seventies Doncaster, reproduced by kind permission of Second Generation, is part of a new Danum Museum exhibition, Changing the Record

“History belongs to everyone. It’s our story,” said Victoria Ryves from Heritage Doncaster. “But if we don’t recognise any of the people in the starring roles, people who look like us or share similar life experiences, then it can be hard to engage with history or understand its relevance – it becomes a little more than a list of dates.

"There are some groups of people who are particularly under-represented within the historical record, including women, people of colour, people with disabilities or the LGBTQ+ community. We wanted to rewrite these local people back into the history books and so we assembled a master team of volunteers to work with us on Changing the Record.

How to get involved with Doncaster history

“After hours of painstaking detective work, online research, scouring time-worn manuscripts and fading film footage, they’ve made so many wonderful discoveries that we’ve decided to showcase them in a special exhibition opening on 20 December at the new Danum Gallery, Library and Museum.”

Phil Jones, who works at Danum Gallery, Library and Museum in Doncaster, pictured in front of the original Doncaster Girls High School building which is inside the gallery. The museum features a new exhibition, Changing the Record, featuring the town's hidden histories

Stories include:

*A rewriting of South Yorkshire’s black history: in traditional working-class towns like Doncaster, people of colour have been a valued and integral part of the community for centuries longer than people think.

*Less dark magic, more dark history: an investigation into witchcraft, uncovering socially-sanctioned bullying and ostracisation of single women, with parallels in modern ‘trolling’.

*The tale of true love between Alfred Wainwright and artist Otto Jübermann is an invaluable addition to the sparse archive of LGBTQIA history in South Yorkshire, providing a remarkable insight into sexual identity and freedom both at home and abroad in the early 20th century.

Linda Jones is pictured by the Parkinsons Butterscotch display window at the new-look Danum Gallery, Library and Museum in Doncaster. The museum features a new exhibition, Changing the Record, highlighting the town's hidden histories

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*New insights into South Yorkshire women who broke the mould - from pioneering businesswomen to intrepid, epic adventurers.

*The experiences of Irish migrants of the past, moving to Doncaster for new beginnings and challenges.

*South Yorkshire’s rebel women, from the heroines of the coalfields to the suffragettes who fought for freedom.

Victoria said: “Anyone can become a history detective – you don’t need to have studied it at school, you just need to have a curious mind and plenty of love for your subject!

“Maybe you too could be unearthing hidden histories, finding a voice for the many people of the past whose stories should be heard.”

Join one of Heritage Doncaster’s fun and free history clubs, delve into their online archive, explore Danum Museum or download 5 Minute Histories.

There are also opportunities to sign up as a community heritage volunteer, working alongside museum experts.

Visit www.heritagedoncaster.org.uk or follow social media @DoncasterMuseum.