Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust

Sophie Bricknell had a spooky-sounding first month at Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, where she supported event planning in the run-up to Halloween…

Working between the public and corporate events departments at Ironbridge, I’ve gained a variety of experience in my first month as cultural intern. In the Department for Corporate and Banqueting, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to turn event ideas into reality – from meeting with prospective clients to discussing event needs and potential solutions to the organisation and administration of upcoming events. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to help run events, including a corporate team building treasure hunt.

The bulk of my time has been spent preparing for Blists Hill Victorian Town’s Halloween event, Ghostly Gaslight. The event hosted 3,500 people and included a series of scary exhibitions, each with a different theme. I was in charge of arranging the exhibition props, which involved sorting through the prop stores, sourcing new props from a range of suppliers, and even making some myself. The exhibition themes varied widely – from the Fright Night Cycle Showroom, which featured a green haired mummy as its’ secretary and zombies in the Ironworks to witches making potions in the school house, complete with an array of eye watering ingredients. Anyone for eye of newt? Sprinters tendons?

Alien eggs, zombie posters and the Cycle Showroom secretary!

Some exhibitions required hand-made props, such as alien eggs, glowing jars and body bags, and it was part of my job to produce them alongside posters and labels. I had regular consultations with the demonstrators on hand to scare visitors on the night, I also consulted with curators to ensure the safety and care of the historical objects already situated in the museum and enjoyed by regular day time visitors. Some exhibitions required the use of props supplied by the museum’s wardrobe department, which lead to regular discussions with them, and the onsite printers who were able to produce my Zombie posters in a Victorian style. Prop management became a multi-department activity. Each exhibition required a different amount of consultation and sourcing; I had to make clear lists of what needed to be achieved and prioritise tasks.

As with any event, the day itself involved the organisation of last minute details and most importantly the set up. Alongside all the demonstrator led exhibits, Blists Hill was also home to a 37-foot Marshmallow man, the Ghostbusters car, a fire goddess, projectors, fireworks and the transformation of the Spry into a ghost ship. The use of smoke machines, lighting and sounds brought the ship to life, with the addition of props including skeletons, pirates, cobwebs and netting to help set the scene. Scenery, props and demonstrators combined were sufficient to scare visitors to the event!

Attractions at Ghostly Gaslight

During the three hours that the museum was closed, Blists Hill was truly transformed into ‘Blists Hell’. I distributed props and set dressed unmanned exhibits including the Blood Bank, the Fight Night Cycle Showroom, the Locksmith’s and the Graveyard, previously known as the pleasure gardens. I felt a real sense of ownership over these tasks and was able to manage my time to complete them before we opened. I also got a sense of Ironbridge’s extensive site. All in all a great first month, now onto the Victorian Christmas Weekends!

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