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MA Museum and Heritage Development students curate exhibition at Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre for International Museum Day

The photography exhibition is titled ‘Canalside Visions: Beijing to Beeston and Back Again’ and was curated jointly by Nottingham Trent University and Communication University of China

MAMHD Chinese students
A group photo of the MA Museum and Heritage Development students

MA Museum and Heritage Development students recently opened a new photography exhibition at Beeston's Canalside Heritage Centre to mark International Museum Day 2019. The project was a collaboration between students based in the UK and students studying the same course at our partner institution Communication University of China (CUC) in Beijing.

The exhibition focuses on photographs of both The Grand Canal in China and the Nottingham and Beeston Canal, with students in each country taking meaningful photographs of the canal and the activities surrounding it. The photographs showcase the different cultural landscapes of the canals as well as the similarities and differences between cultures. This concept was chosen due to the theme of International Museum Day 2019, which is ‘The Future of Tradition’.

‘Canalside Visions: Beijing to Beeston and Back Again’ involves around 50 curated images, as well as the poem ‘Waiting in the Morning by the Canal to Board the Boat’ by Qianlong, Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1736 – 1795). The group translated the Chinese poem into English for the purposes of the exhibition, with both versions displayed. The students also created a video of additional photography taken by students of the course, as over 200 photographs had been submitted to the project. The exhibition was designed to be easily transported, in the hopes that it can travel to China to be used in the next academic year.

The students organised a launch event for the exhibition, where they were able to perform a poetry reading of the selected poem in both Chinese and English. They also connected with the CUC students in China via a video link during the event.

Two Chinese students performing poetry
The students performed a poetry reading at the launch event

Connecting with local heritage businesses through projects like this allows students to develop experience in the field and gain transferable skills such as organisation and teamwork. For our international students in particular, it also allows them to develop connections with organisations while they are in Nottingham. Students involved in the exhibition plan to return to Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre in their spare time due to how much they have enjoyed the project.

We spoke to MA Museum and Heritage Development student Feixue Huangdu to find out what she’s enjoyed most about the project. She told us: “This was the first time I’ve really learned how to be a curator. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with the CUC students and being able to show the differences and similarities between the Chinese and UK cultures. We’ve all enjoyed working along the Beeston canal and at the Canalside Heritage Centre because of the beautiful scenery here and the links to history, and something we wanted to get across in the exhibition was the connections between the canal and beautiful life.”

“I’ve learned more about communication and how to interpret themes for an audience, as well as how to best work as a team when there’s a deadline. I also learned a lot from translating the Chinese poem into English, as it was challenging at times, because there weren’t many literal translations! The course is very practical and teaches you how to work independently. There is much more focus on the practical rather than theoretical and so it’s clear to see the links to a future career.”

We also spoke to Ning Yu from the group, who added: “This has been our first time planning an exhibition in the UK and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our tutors, Neville, Duncan and Katharina. I’ve enjoyed the whole process of working with the group to choose the pictures, decide how to display them and decide on picture sizes for the exhibition. I’ve also been in charge of recording all of our meetings and discussions so we have a record of our progress. This experience has been valuable and allowed us to work together and collaborate with CUC, which is very meaningful. I want to be a curator in the future so I’m really grateful for this opportunity.”

Published on 18 June 2019
  • Subject area: English, history and philosophy
  • Category: Current students; School of Arts and Humanities