This week we have been getting involved with the new Museum Buddy scheme on Twitter. It involves museums across the country buddying up with one another to explore the hidden connections between the two and champion each other on social media. We were fortunate enough to be paired with the Ancient House Museum in Thetford, Norfolk.

Although the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and Ancient House Museum are a cool 209 miles apart (thanks Google Maps!), and look very different from the outside, there are in fact some really interesting similarities between our two sites. 

Thetford is the birthplace of Thomas Paine, who was born a stone's throw away from the Ancient House. He was a political activist who was famously influential in the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence. His work on human rights, however, is what makes him so interesting to us here at the Co-operative Heritage Trust. In his 1791 work, Rights of Man, Paine was responding to critiques of the French Revolution. In this, he also sets out methods of social support; encouraging education for the young and care for the elderly. These were revolutionary ideas at the time.

There is a clear philosophical link here between Paine and the Rochdale Pioneers. One of their seven original Rochdale Principles was the “promotion of education” in order to fulfil the co-operative values of “self-help” and “self-responsibility”. Their concern for their community of Rochdale at large is also reflected in Paine’s thoughts on supporting people throughout their life, from their childhood to their old age. 

There are not just historical similarities between our two museums; we are also both working on similar projects within our communities. This wasn’t something we expected to find out when we became museum buddies, given the differences between our locations and our focus. The Ancient House has a really well established Teenage History Club. They have done some amazing things such as a two year project that explored their local queer history. This led to the production of an exhibition, a film, a stand up comedy night and much more! 

As you might know, we also have a youth group here at CHT. Our Young Advisers group stemmed from a National Heritage Lottery funded project, Pioneer Places, that took place in 2019. The young people involved wanted to carry on working with us and they are now working towards helping us redevelop our permanent exhibitions. We’ve been really inspired by all of the great content that the Teenage History Club have produced and look forward to seeing what they get up to in the future. 

The Museum Buddy scheme has allowed us to realise that although museums may seem very different due to their core focus and location, we all share commonalities. We all want to educate and entertain our audiences and involve as many members of our community as possible when doing this. We’re so glad to have been paired up with the Ancient House Museum as it has given us the opportunity to discover this fascinating museum and the work that they do. We can’t wait to come and see you all properly!

Watch this space for our next Museum Buddy partnership and find more about the Museum Buddy project by visiting their Twitter page - @MuseumBuddy.