All My Worldly Possessions

North West

Project Summary

This project is based on academic research into the Guernsey/Bury evacuee experience during World War Two. Recent work  with Bury Archive Service had uncovered many local people who has stories to tell but had not yet been captured.

Project Partners

Joanne Fitton
Archivist, Bury Museum and Archives
Role Description:
Gill Mawson
PhD researcher, University of Manchester
Role Description:
Early Career Researcher

Benefits & Impact

The value of this project has been in the relationship developed between Gill Mawson and Bury Archives Service.  Gill has untapped knowledge of a local community and shared this for today.  It has helped the staff of Bury Museum & Archives to recognised the importance of the Channel Island evacuee experience, something that they will be able to share with visitors for years to come. 

The value has also been in bringing the community together – people who have not seen each other for 70 years and helping them to speak of issues they have hidden from their families and themselves for a long time.  In the summer of 2010 Bury Museum did run a small display on the Channel Island evacuees but the impact of this was not as far reaching as this project has been. 

This project has drawn out Gill’s strengths – her perseverance, passion for her subject and natural rapport, enabling members of the public open up about very sensitive subjects.  Gill is a very powerful advocate for the importance of her research and it is her personal skill that brings organisations together with new working relationships.  The documentary will have further reach – being used as a staff training tool for other museums.  The fact that a school group came to the open day was unexpected and for the library service really proved that classes will visit the space.  All the comments from the open day show the positive impact the project has had on local people.


“For Bury Archives Service this has been a very valuable project.  It has translated research from a dry local authority records collection into a real life story that our communities understand and relate too.  This has enabled the Archives Service to reach new audiences who would never have engaged before and we now have a product whereby we can continue to promote the story.” Joanne Fitton, Archivist

"A wonderful trip down memory lane, great reception- good to exchange news about long lost friends from the islands, a good day altogether." Participant at the intergenerational event


Top Tips

  • Have plenty of time.
  • If your objectives are clear at the start the outputs can evolve over time.
  • Research the contributors for a dissemination event – make sure that their ‘story’ is relevant to your ‘story’.


This project was based on the academic research of Gill Mawson into the Guernsey/ Bury evacuee experience during World War Two.  Gill had carried out research at Bury Archives and interviewed former evacuees.  Recent work during the 70th anniversary, had uncovered many local people who would like their story to be heard – but they have not yet been captured.  This was a key example of making what started out as academic research into a piece of work that engaged with all in the local community, from school children learning of the evacuee experience to members of the community with personal memories to recount.

Bury Archives Service was creating a heritage gallery in partnership with the Ramsbottom Heritage Society to provide a space for interactive storytelling sessions and display of locally significant community heritage stories.  We wanted to bring the Guernsey evacuee story to the community of Ramsbottom through Gill’s research, creating sustainable links to her continuing research with activities/ materials aimed at children and adults.  We also wanted to capture more of the story of the evacuees by bringing Gill into contact with new members of the local community.

Aims & Objectives

ORAL HISTORY: To capture 5 local evacuee stories of people from Guernsey/ Bury in addition to current oral history recordings.  All to be produced onto CD and distributed through the Libraries Service and be held at the North West Sound Archive

WRITTEN HISTORY: To produce booklet (200 copies) translating Gill’s research into an ‘easy read’ of stories and images

INTERGENERATIONAL EVENT: To run an event where a group of Guernsey evacuees to speak alongside Gill on their experience. Event open to families (expected numbers 100) at Ramsbottom Library, delivered with a suitcase of objects and images to show what an evacuee would have arrived with. 

PRIMARY SCHOOL SESSION TRAINING: Gill to ‘train’ museum visitor assistants on the evacuee experience based on her research.  Suitcase to be available for workshop delivery alongside oral history recordings and offered to local schools.


Joanne and Gill met on several occasions in the early stages of the project to flesh out what we wanted to achieve from the initial bid.  The initial idea of creating an extensive booklet on Gills research was modified so as to not be in conflict with Gill’s ambitions for future publication. 

From the beginning we had planned to do an open day with Gill showing members of the public evacuee objects but we needed to make the draw bigger for the public to engage.  To home in on Gill’s research and find new contacts specific to the Bury area a public appeal was carried out in the local press, on BBC radio and on Guernsey.  Gill compiled contact details of everyone who came forward, speaking to them and finding out what piece of the evacuee story they could add too.  From the 60 respondents a clear connection to the archives was discovered and it was agreed to focus on this story.  The opportunity to make a documentary came about and Gill recontacted specific people to establish what involvement they would be willing to have.  Gill devised interview questions and a storyboard for the film with assistance from the film maker and interviews were conducted.  With this focused story in place Gill devised a booklet insert for the documentary DVD case. 

On 28th October 2010 the film was launched at the public engagement event at Ramsbottom library.  The event was advertised through the local press and with flyers.  Over 100 people attended the event, with 5 showings of the film throughout the day.