Hi there! My name is Shannon Hess and I am a postgrad student at The University of Glasgow. I am currently getting my master’s in museum studies. I am from St. Louis, Missouri. Back home, I received my bachelors at the University of Missouri in Public History. I first visited Summerlee back in January of 2019 for a class trip. I really enjoyed the tour we were given and that is what inspired me to do my project report for my dissertation here.
I got to explore the museum’s collection to figure out what I wanted to write a story about for the website. I found a tea set in the collection, what made it stand out to me was that it was used as a teaching aid for young school girls. I found it fascinating that there was a class dedicated to the proper ways to serve and pour tea in school. That’s when I decided to do a post on the education differences between boys and girls.
There were no photos of the tea set, so I got to go into the store with Michael, the Assistant Curator and search it out. While looking around we found desks used from about the time period I was researching and the over six foot Michael decided it was a good idea to take the desks off the shelf, into the narrow isle and crawl under them to look for graffiti. Crawling under and around these child size desks was quite a task, but we did manage to find a funny carving of an Elvis-like face drawn into one of them!
What I fell in love with when first visiting was the village of houses and the coal mine. You can take the only working trolley (tramline) in Scotland to get there. I loved being able to walk into the past and see a house set up the way people used to live. The house from the 60s? Just made me think of my mom. If she could have seen it, she would have been slapping me in excitement every time she recognised something she had during her childhood. My mom does this thing when a song comes on where she bets me $5 if I can correctly guess the title and artist of songs she doesn’t think I’ve ever heard of. It took her awhile to catch on to me cheating by using my smartphone to figure out the answers. I now know her go-to songs and am no longer allowed to play the game. But my 15 year old sister gets asked, and some of those songs are playing in one of the houses.
I also loved the Wee Sweetie Shop in the village. It was the inspiration for my educational post on the history of sugar in Scotland. There you can buy sweets the way they were made 100 years ago and they are displayed the way they used to be as well. It is very cute and even has the locally made Lee’s candy bars available.
My favorite section of Summerlee is the coal mine. I love that it is actually built into the ground and how you go through it almost complete darkness. The authenticity really impacted me and made me realise the hardships miners faced and how awful of a life they had. I’m not even sure I would call it a life. It is no wonder people took to drinking. Now Coatbridge is one of the largest consumers of Buckfast.
Summerlee put a lot of thought and time into designing this section of the museum. It is easy to distance yourself from history when it is behind glass. Through this village and mine you are able to fully immerse yourself into the story Summerlee is telling. It transports you to a simpler yet more difficult time and makes you appreciate what you have today.
About the Author:
Shannon is 24 years old and from St. Louis, Missouri. She travelled over to Scotland to get her master’s degree at The University of Glasgow in Museum Studies. History has always been a passion of hers as her parents constantly took her to museums and let her watch war movies at a young age. She has worked at the St. Louis History Museum and assisted at Soldiers Memorial, and is hoping to one day work at the Smithsonian.