Fishwives and School Lives


Fishwives and School Lives is an intergenerational project between Victoria Primary School, Edinburgh Museums & Galleries, the Haven Centre (an older people’s group at Newhaven Church) and the wider Newhaven community. The project was funded by the Scottish Centre for Intergenerational Practice, and explored two topics. These were: fishing (Newhaven is historically a fishing community); and schools in the past (Victoria Primary, built in 1844, is the oldest working school in Edinburgh). It culminated in the development of ‘The Wee Museum of Newhaven’ an exhibition space at Victoria Primary School.

To help the children to research their exhibition, they visited the Haven Centre and talked to some of the older people who use the service there about their experiences in Newhaven in the past. A local resident also visited the school to share his memories. This helped to bring history to life for the children and the older people felt proud that they could pass on their memories of the disappearing heritage of the village to the next generation. It also enabled both young and old to interact and share experiences.

The children also learned more about the history of Newhaven by borrowing loan boxes of objects from the museums which enabled them to see and touch historical artefacts in the classroom.

A small group of children also went to visit the museum stores and met museum staff and learnt about the work museums do behind the scenes and to help select the objects for the exhibition.They photographed and kept a record of their visit so they could report back to the other children and the photographs were displayed on the Museums Flickr page so that the general public could find out more about the venue. This enabled children to learn about history from touching real historical artefacts, to find out about the work of museums, to improve writing and photography skills and also to learn more about the world outside the school.

Edinburgh Museums & Galleries then worked with the school to develop the ‘Wee Museum of Newhaven’ a permanent exhibition space in the school. The children worked to name the museum, create a sign for the museum, decide on objects to be displayed and developed posters and other material for the museum. Members of the local community also assisted by donating objects to supplement those on loan from the museums service. The Museums Service then used the children’s selection of objects to create the exhibition ‘Fishwives and School Lives’ which is currently on display there. The exhibition opened on 26 January 2011, and is now open to the general public by appointment. It will also be opened for special events and staffed by volunteers from the local community.

The children will continue to be involved in the project by giving tours for visitors, this means that the intergenerational learning is not limited to younger generations learning from older ones, but is a two way process. The museum in the school will also enable the children to continue to learn from the original historical artefacts on display about the fascinating and unique heritage of their village and the museum also gives the local community a space where they can keep their heritage alive and pass it on to future generations.