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Welcome to our blog

What we do…

This blog will explore some of the stories of Eastbourne, have a closer look at the objects in our collections and keep you up to date on what we’re up to!

To start us off, we present our mission statement:

Everyone leaves behind traces of their lives; a worn step, a scratched mark in a church wall, a lost button, a forgotten letter.

Using these physical traces we recreate past lives and tell lost stories of the people of Eastbourne.  

By making tangible links to real people, by walking the same ground, learning through life enhancing experiences, challenging the way people think and inspiring and stimulating debate, we explore what it means to be human in Eastbourne in a different time.

We intend to engage with every school child, every visitor, every resident, using the human experience, in the day to day lives of people in Eastbourne through time. We aim to empower the public with the opportunities to do this within their local environment and also at our exhibitions, through outreach, events and project work.

Stories from the Stores – Sussex After the Bomb

Kelly van Doorn, Heritage Collections Officer

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of the unveiling of the Peace Symbol. Originally used in protests against nuclear armament, it is now recognised globally as a symbol of world peace. With the Doomsday Clock teetering on the edge of Midnight’s global catastrophe, nuclear weapons and the threat they pose are under ever-increasing scrutiny.

This fear has been present long before our current century and an object in our collection reflects that. A book published by Professions for Peace, Sussex in 1984 explores the effects and aftermath of a nuclear attack in Sussex. Sussex After the Bomb, has a picture of James and Hilda Bloggs from When the Wind Blows– an animated disaster film set in Sussex which follows the Bloggs’ life after a nuclear attack (Spoiler alert- it’s not very jolly!).

Sussex After the Bomb uses the East Sussex County Council’s War Emergency Plan to consider how an attack on nuclear power stations or direct bomb-drops in Sussex would impact people, infrastructure and ecosystems locally and nationally. It carefully considers the long-term irreversible harm that nuclear weapons would cause to the planet; blocking sunlight, eroding the protective ozone layer and irradiated vegetation.  There is nothing optimistic about the book as it essentially refutes all statements made by Government departments about preparations and plans of action.  However, at the end, the book asks “What can YOU do?”… having read it, I thought “not a lot” but the message they wanted to get across is: the best thing any individual can do is let your voice be heard and connect with ordinary people in other countries who are just as worried about our leaders as we are theirs.  Connectivity and communication, not xenophobia and distrust, will be the catalyst to nuclear disarmament.

As I sit at my desk writing a blog post about an unassuming-looking book in a box in our stores, I’m reminded of Albert Einstein allegedly coining the phrase, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”. It is terrifying to think that this quote is truer today than it was when it was uttered.

Happy Birthday to The Story of Eastbourne!

On 16th February, the Story of Eastbourne exhibition will be 1 year old! And what a year it has been – we have seen over 23,000 visitors, recorded lots of new stories of Eastbourne and had outstanding feedback. We opened the exhibition to gather feedback from visitors and to find out whether opening a permanent museum is actually what people want. So far, it’s been an overwhelming YES!

Awesome! Would love to see a larger, permanent exhibit great for school groups

Really enjoyed the women’s stories women are often overlooked in history

I would like to have a larger space so that you could see more. Definitely would like a permanent museum. I hope that this is just the beginning.

When asked what their best bit was, visitors told us…

The story behind the characters and how they lived

The place was a brilliant idea and the staff are lovely

The elephant tooth. Didn’t realise we had such big creatures in and around Eastbourne

The reconstruction of ancient people’s lives. I also found the subtle humour of the phrasing very lovely. Plus it made me want to read everything! This museum is like an unexpected page Turner. Can’t believe it’s free!

And of course, Trying on the different types of hats for different times and places.

We have met relatives of George Grimmond – Eastbourne’s spectacular illusionist and film maker, new visitors to Eastbourne and residents who have lived in Eastbourne forever and discovered at least one new story to pass on.

Eastbourne Swifts beat Lewes in the Sussex Senior Cup January 1900

There have been new discoveries – Charles Montague Wood and his football career starting in Eastbourne Swifts and moving on to captain the Eastbourne Trinity Football Club, Beachy Head Woman’s DNA results are back and indicate that her geographic ancestry – possibly her parents or grandparents, is in Southern Europe, most likely Cyprus (more on her DNA results in a future blog post!)  and a new object for the collection, George Grimmond’s book of magic!

The Story of Eastbourne works particularly well thanks to our superb team who are always ready to welcome visitors to the exhibition every single day so we’d like to take this opportunity to say a big Thank You to both the team and all the visitors.

And finally, we’ve been asked whether we will have a guidebook for the exhibition and the answer is…. YES! The Story of Eastbourne Guidebook is now for sale in the exhibition and is another place to discover the tales full of mystery, intrigue, faith, fortune, love, war and magic! It is a celebration of storytelling from the people of Eastbourne.

Traces

Door step at Black Robin Farm Cottage

Jo Seaman, Heritage Manager

No matter who we are or how long we are lucky to be on this beautiful, flawed, fascinating, cruel world, we will leave a mark.

My feet will wear down our front door step, even just slightly, a millimetre at most, but I have become part of the story of that threshold, maybe just another passing shadow, but I and it are now linked.

But the physical impact is just a fraction of that story. What about the countless times I walked in to the house to the sounds of families and laughter, to disputes and turmoil, mischief and mayhem and sometimes, to lonely silence. If someone were to visit this spot after I have gone, my mark will be there, worn on the fabric, but what of the other? All those emotions, actions, interactions, relationships? My feet left a physical impact, but what made me an individual, unique, thinking, feeling human being; can that ever be recovered? Can the story of me really be told? Or is all I leave behind just the casual vandalism of my feet on part of a structure that was built long before I was born and will, in all likelihood be standing long after I am gone?

Obviously I hope that my impact on this world will be more than just a slightly more worn piece of liminal wood. In all likelihood, I will leave plenty more marks, digital traces, photos, letters, family memories, stories told to grandchildren, an obscure heirloom or two. But one day, let’s face it, the memory of me will fade to just an obscure footnote, perhaps a story recounted over a drink or two (“No-one can believe he really drank a dead man’s pint.”) changing over time until it no longer holds an ounce of my essence. Then, perhaps, all that will be left of me will be that physical mark, just a trace fossil of a life long forgotten.

But that is too tragic. Whoever we are and whatever we do, we lived! Shout that out! Be proud of it. So far as we know, out of the thirty billion or so planets in our galaxy, there is only and will be only, one ‘you’. You really are pretty damn special.

But what of the estimated 107 billion Homo sapiens that have lived on this pale blue dot over the last 50000 years or so? They too, we can assume, were pretty special, unique certainly with a story worth remembering and one deserving to be told. One thing that connects them to you, or me, is that they too left a mark. Somewhere, somehow, they interacted with the physical world and affected it. Perhaps like me their clumsy size 11’s abraded layers of molecules from the fabric of a building or maybe they lost one of their possessions in a muddy field or roadside ditch? Or was this ghost ‘you’ making their mark more deliberately, scratching a name on a stone wall or dropping a painful memory, made tangible in a photograph, down between the gap in the floorboards?

This ‘stuff’, these marks have for many, many years been recovered, recorded and studied. But sometimes I fear, we see them just as they appear to be, physical evidence of people from the past. Interactions of our ancestors with the world around them, objects of identity, culture, love and death. We are not always able, often due to time or financial constraints and the restrictions of specialisms and professional interest to look beyond the physical and explore the less tangible. We sometimes fear to go beyond the history and into the more subtle and less recoverable world of the personal story. But that is exactly what we are trying to do, albeit on a local and not a global scale. We are only a small service after all.

With you, we want to explore the everyday, the mundane, the stupid, the hilarious and the terrible, in essence, that which makes us human. And our starting point for all of this will be that mark carved in stone, that object in a ditch, that discarded memory and perhaps even, that worn doorstep.

Join us on this journey, it won’t always be easy. Indeed sometimes we will reach a dead end, that moment when the story drifts from memory and is lost, but sometimes, just sometimes, we will find a connection that makes us realise just how incredibly special we are and have always been.

With thanks to Carl Sagan and Robert Macfarlane for inspiration and the occasional butchered quote.

Who we are…

Here at Heritage Eastbourne, we feel it’s important that our visitors have the opportunity to get to know the individual team members, what they do, and what they recommend. This is a great way to provide valuable insight behind the scenes at Heritage Eastbourne and also offers a glimpse at some of the things we do that you might not be aware of.

Head over to our Meet the Team page on our website for more about us but here’s what we look like!

Katherine Buckland Heritage Engagement Officer
Kelly van Doorn Heritage Collections Officer
Jo Seaman Heritage Manager
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