MMF is delighted to have a Youth Ambassador scheme. The role of Ambassadors is to act as a bridge between the Museums and local schools, and input into MMF operations, plans and proposals.  The Ambassadors support events for teachers, parents and they are also involved in generating resources for their schools and work on projects for the primary and secondary sectors. They are keen to develop a student Museum Ambassador network within other schools and are hoping to build an online network of Ambassadors.

Recent YA Activity

‘May the toys be with you’, exhibit at Maidstone Museum. August 2021

From the 3rd July to the 4th September 2021, two rooms of the Maidstone Museum were dedicated to displaying vintage merchandise from the legendary Star Wars franchise. This touring collection is one of the UK’s finest. It includes a collection of every British poster created for the original Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983), Vintage Star Wars play sets and mint condition action figures of the classic characters known by Star Wars fans and non-fans alike. 

Both rooms are packed full of Star Wars paraphernalia, created in a time when the films were new, capturing their original excitement, before anyone was really aware of the lasting impact, they would have on the worlds of toy making, collecting, merchandising, cinema, and film. Very few people believed in the success of Star Wars so funding to make the first film was hard to come by, and in return for a reduction in his salary George Lucas negotiated that he would retain 100% of the merchandising rights. After its record-breaking opening, over 300 million Star Wars action figures and toys were produced and sold from the vintage collection (1977-1985). Thanks to the amendment 29-year-old Lucas made to his contract (reducing studio control) estimated revenue from merchandising, including modern merchandise sales, is a staggering $32 billion.

You can clearly see why as you walk around the exhibit admiring the action figures, toy sets, life sized storm troopers, movie posters and set props. Visitors can either refresh their knowledge or learn about collections from the information plaques: ‘The end of the line’, ‘Buried treasure’,’ Star Wars around the world’, ’Forgeries and the force’, ‘What’s in the box?’ and many more. 

As a newbie to the Star Wars universe and an original fan, myself and my Dad went to see the exhibition and spent an enjoyable few hours exploring the vast collection, mildly shocked that one man had gathered all of this, especially as the worldwide record sale price for a single toy was £56,000. Both of us would definitely recommend catching this exhibition if it comes around again. Whether you’re an avid fan or a onetime viewer, it’s definitely worthwhile. 

By Izzy Rye, MMF YA

Couture from the Maidstone Museum Collection, July 2021

Fashion and Textiles students from Invicta Grammar School had hoped to carry out research visits at the Musee De La Mode in Paris, the V&A in London and a study visit of Couture pieces from the Maidstone Museum collection. However, due to the pandemic leading to limited opening times and museum closure, these proposed trips were not possible last academic year (2020-21).  It was therefore great news for the students when the proposed study tour of Couture pieces from the Maidstone Museum collection was confirmed for the 8th July 2021.  

This was the first Secondary School study tour since the museum was able to re-open this summer and was the first for the Invicta students.  Collections Manager Samantha Harris organised an excellent visit for the students and we thank her for the time that she had taken to prepare the resources and information that was shared with the students.  The selection of the couture pieces and their presentation was superb. The opportunity for the students to explore the construction and quality of detail in manufacture was so important to their knowledge and understanding of couture and of the periods of fashion history in which these garments were created. 

The trip started off with visiting the public historical costume area and following the history of fashion and how it took off from the 1800’s. The different silhouette shapes were displayed and we discussed about the not so known influences of the majority as well as minority of type of garments found at the time. For example, how there are proportionally a lot more women’s garments than men’s or how people mostly donate the more luxurious clothes even though the not so expensive ones are just as important – it shows how the population at the time dressed and not just the higher class giving us a more accurate fashion perception of that time period. 

Then our guide, Sam, showed us some couture pieces that aren’t on show consisting of some big brands: Frank Usher, Balenciaga, Dior and Givenchy. You could see the experimentation in some of the garments, which was refreshing to see especially considering the time they were made. The Givenchy dress especially showcased with a grey net interwoven clear fine strands of cellophane which gave impact and defined it from the rest if the garments. Each piece was beautifully sewn with hand stitching to achieve precision. 

 Even though these garments were made quite a while ago, some still had signs of constrictive under pieces which shows that the time periods still didn’t prioritise women’s freedom, despite having moved away from under caging – the boning and corset style is an implicit under caging. So it was interesting to see the movement of women’s rights with the pieces. 

Overall the trip was extremely useful to our research and has inspired us in our own ways. Sam was lovely and answered our questions very well. 

Here's what a few Youth Ambassadors say:

Izzy, a year 11 Ambassador

“I joined my school MMF Ambassador programme when I was in year 10. It has been the perfect way for me to explore things that interest me and learn about how museums work to  present such interesting history to the public. As a team we have participated in planning events and competitions to improve engagement with schools, young people and families. Although the events of the past year (2020) have hindered our ability to connect with the local community we hope to seize the opportunity to branch out into online continuing to enlighten people to the wonder that is the Maidstone Museums and all itheir treasures. As students many of us are excited about testing different, more creative ideas in which we can appeal to young people’s competitive sides through competitions and challenges, or helping improve the MMF’s social media and online presence. I found this past year to be a very enriching experience, socially and academically, along with everyone else on the team and that is what we wish to bring to lots more people.”

 

Miriam, a year 10 Ambassador

“My name is Miriam and I am an Ambassador because of my life long love and appreciation for history, and my previous experiences in public speaking. In my role as an Ambassador, my goal is to educate and stress the importance of history to others, as it is a topic I am very passionate about. One of my winning speeches was about preserving the past, which is a topic I believe is very important, especially for younger people to learn about. As the famous quote states “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Therefore, with the use of my public speaking and communication skills along with my other experiences, my goal as a MFF Ambassador would be to stress the importance of keeping history alive.”

Lauren, a year 10 Ambassador

“I have chosen to be an Ambassador for MMF because I have always had a passion about history, and am keen to broaden my history knowledge beyond the classroom, I am also considering to pursue further education in history, possibly in the form of a degree. I have been to the Museums multiple times on family outings, making me familiar with all of the displays and knowing how a young child visiting the Museums interact with their artefacts. Pre-pandemic, I have had experience working with Primary school aged children, through the form of family and through volunteering at a local summer school. Therefore I am familiar with encouraging children of all ages to partake in a range of activities and maintain their interests in a variety of topics.”

 

Sathushana, a year 10 Ambassador

“Hi, my name is Sathushana and I enrolled in being a MMF Ambassador as I believe I can take an active role in helping promote to other schools the heritage of the Museums. This role is also a great place to build my communication as well as organisation skills which will benefit me in the future.  I’m hoping to bring my artistic and knowledge about historical events to help in making our youth to understand  the revolutionary changes that has occurred and what other generations went through to get us to where we are today.”

The MMF Board is very appreciative of those who volunteer to become a Youth Ambassador – currently and their involvement in the past. We currently have seven student ambassadors in post. However, each year new students are sought to replace those who move on to higher education.  

We are always interested in hearing from those interested in being an Ambassador – to be part of our work to support Maidstone’s Museums. If that is you please contact the MMF secretary to talk more about the positions – info@maidstonemuseumsfriends.org.uk