National Civil War Centre

From Local Museum to the National Civil War Centre: Transforming the Public History of the British and Irish Civil Wars (1638 – 1652) 

The Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester and the National Civil War Centre (NCWC) have been working together to transform the public history of the British and Irish Civil Wars since 2012, when Newark Museum began its transformation, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Newark and Sherwood District Council, into opening as the NCWC in May 2015.  

A team from the Centre for English Local History organised the NCWC’s inaugural conference in August 2015 which led to an edited volume (2018) and an exhibition (2016-2019), both named Battle-Scarred, on the theme of civil-war medical care and military welfare. Andrew Hopper (Leicester) and Glyn Hughes (NCWC) established a new working practice of exhibition planning committees, composed of academic historians and museum professionals working side by side, and learning from each other. The Wolfson Foundation kindly funded the establishment of a resource centre at the NCWC to develop further this collaboration. 

A collaboration agreement between the University of Leicester and the NCWC followed in 2017, in which year the NCWC achieved its national museum accreditation. Also in 2017, the NCWC became the official impact partner of the AHRC-funded Civil War Petitions project (2017-2022) which is building a free public website that showcases the testimonies of maimed soldiers, war widows, orphans and those impoverished by the wars. In 2020, the project’s extensive blog series was highly commended for the Janette Harley Prize by the British Records Association. We have also been collaborating with NCWC’s Learning and Participation Team and partner schoolteachers from across England in NCWC workshops to develop educational resources at Key Stage 3, GCSE and A Level. 

Another collaborative exhibition, named The World Turned Upside Down, followed (2019-2021). Oresta Muckute was appointed a Midlands 4 Cities Collaborative PhD student between the University and the NCWC in 2019, and she is co-ordinating plans for a further exhibition for 2023, examining the Civil Wars in Ireland, the first of its kind in the UK, in collaboration with Irish Museums. 

In November 2020 we collaborated with the Royal Shakespeare Company to produce a 30 minute film entitled ‘Representing Disability in Shakespeare’s World’ for the UK Festival of Social Science. The film dramatizes performances of petitions for pensions (drawn from the Civil War Petitions website) by maimed soldiers and war widows, interspersed with extracts from Shakespeare’s plays revealing what he had to say on the subject. 

Resources

People involved in the project

  • Professor Andrew Hopper (Principal Investigator and Guest Curator) 
  • Dr Eric Gruber von Arni (Guest Curator) 
  • Dr Ismini Pells (AHRC Project Manager) 
  • Dr David Appleby (Co-Investigator) 
  • Dr Stewart Beale (Exhibition Committee and M4C NCWC Intern) 
  • Dr Mandy de Belin (Exhibition Committee) 
  • Dr Maureen Harris (Exhibition Committee) 
  • Dr Richard Jones (Exhibition Committee) 
  • Dr Bethany Marsh (Exhibition Committee and M4C NCWC Intern) 
  • Oresta Muckute (M4C Collaborative PhD Student with NCWC) 
  • Dr Erin Peters (Exhibition Committee) 
  • Professor Stephen Rutherford (Exhibition Committee) 
  • Diane Strange (Exhibition Committee and M4C NCWC Intern) 
  • Dr Hannah Worthen (Exhibition Committee) 
  • Dr Charlotte Young (Exhibition Committee) 
  • Keith Dowen (Assistant Curator, Royal Armouries) 
  • Sarah Clarke (Learning and Participation Officer, NCWC) 
  • Denise Greany (Learning and Participation Officer, NCWC) 
  • Glyn Hughes (Team Leader, Exhibitions and Collections, NCWC) 
  • Verity Smith (Freelance Exhibitions Curator, NCWC) 
  • Kevin Winter (Exhibitions and Collections Assistant, NCWC)