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On the trail of City's past at tech museum

One of the great symbols of Victorian Cambridge is the city's old pumping station down by the river, now the Museum of Technology.

It is much loved by adults and children alike for its marvellous old engines, and from tomorrow, visitors will be able to take a tour of the exhibits using the latest technology.

A special pilot 'trail' has been set up in the museum, using Bluetooth beacons, which hook up with people's smartphones and tablets to help them navigate from place to place.

The system has been devised by Helen Weinstein, director of Cambridge's HistoryWorks organisation, in collaboration with Pam Halls, the museum's curator.  Technical assistance has been provided by Jonny Austin of ARM.

Helen said: "Visitors can use the free trail to deliver an audio guide, transcription, and photographs of the pumping station.   The trail takes the visitor on 12 stops, and is narrated by Pam.

At at time when we are all talking about rapid growth in Cambridge housing, it's important to remember times when the housing developments of Barnwell and Romsey caused massive drainage and sewage problems, and the high mortality rate of children was shocking. It was an amazing turnaround in life expectancy once the pumping station was built in 1894."

More details are at

Big Wednesday featured in Cambridge News "Time flies, when you're having fun!" (4th August, 2016)


To read the full story and view images please visit

Poet and Youngsters Team Up - Michael Rosen & Helen Weinstein featured in Cambridge News (July 11, 2016)

Poet and Youngsters Team Up:

Primary School children wrote a poem inspired by Cambridge - with a little help from an acclaimed wordsmith.

Michael Rosen was on hand to lead a creative workshop as part of an ongoing Historyworks project to get children excited about their city's history.

Rosen also read a poem he wrote about Coldham's Common.

Helen Weinstein, Creative Director at Historyworks said: "This project has been enormous fun to see the children be creative with words, with song, with rhythms.

I don't think any of the children will ever forget having such an astonishing time with Michael Rosen."

Twilight at the Museums featured in Cambridge News (18th Feb, 2016)

Caption = Listen's Twilight at the Museums

Down the Flue: Children listen to recordings in the 'destructor flue' at the Museum of Technology, with, from left, trustee Mike Blackburn, mayor Rob Dryden, and Historyworks director Helen Weinstein

Caption - Just a Song at Twilight

Sounds of the City: Children sing during Twilight at the Museums event at Cambridge Museum of Technology yesterday

Cambridge Museum of Technology was filled with the sound of young voices last night as hundreds of school children welcomed the return of the annual festival.

The choir, starring some 400 youngsters, heralded the arrival of Twilight at the Museums, which saw museums across the city lay on a host of torchlit activities.

The event, now in its 10th year, was officially launched by Cambridge mayor Rob Dryden before audiences were treated to a medley of songs commissioned by CBBC's Horrible Histories songwriter Dave Cohen.

Helen Weinstein, Director of Historyworks, who organized the event including the performance, explained the songs had given the children an insight into the museum site's previous role as a sewage pumping station.

She said: "They really took with glee to singing songs about Cambridge, the place where they are from, and that really matters.

The songs really work in terms of giving young people ownership of the place where they live in a fun way.

Songs on the set list include River Cam, And Did Those Wees and Drinking Water, with Sea Horses a firm favourite for its explanation of why the animals feature on Cambridge's Coat of Arms.

Helen added: "They have learnt a lot about the hygiene and problems for children living in pre-Victorian Cambridge, many of whom died from typhoid because there was no clean water.

Horrible Histories is a great way to get hooked on history so it's been a great privelege to be able to work with the CBBC's songwriters on this.

The primary schools whose children made up the choir were Abbey Meadows, St Philip's, Milton, Spinney and St Matthew's, with Milton Road Primary School also invited.

Their performance was just the beginning, with free family activities put on across a number of popular city spots, including the Botanic Gardens, Polar Museum and the Cambridge Science Centre.

Families were invited to hunt dinosaurs after dark at the Sedgwick Museum, while the Fitzwilliam Museum teamed up with Kettle's Yard to put on creative workshops with artist Lizzy Hobbs.

More information about the event, which drew to a close at 8.30pm, can be found online at 

Clicking to Connectivity featured in Cambridge News (22nd Oct 2016)

Title: Connecting to history - via Bluetooth

Cambridge schoolchildren have been using futuristic technology to develop a better understanding of the past.

Pupils at Abbey Meadows Primary School have helped to create Bluetooth 'ibeacons', which will be used to trial a new geo-location historical tour at Great St Mary's Church.

Visitors can interact with the beacons using their smartphones or tablet, even inside historic buidlings where wi-fi often doesn't reach.

The project has been led by Prof Helen Weinstein of heritage production company Historyworks, as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

The beacons will be used at a free event next Thursday at Great St Mary's and around Cambridge Market Place.

Cool cats pen lines on lions: Cambridge News 06 Dec 2014

Title: Cool Cats Pen Lines on Lions

Not content with hunting bears, children's author Michael Rosen turned his attention to the Fitzwilliam Museum's much-loved stone lions when he visited Cambridge yesterday.

 The former Children's Laureate and author of We're Going on a Bear Hunt was in town to help local schoolchildren come up with their own poems and songs about the museum's imposing silent guardians.  

According to folklore, the Fitzwilliam Lions rise from their stone plinths at midnight to drink from the gutters in Trumpington Street.  This legend was the inspiration behind The Listening Lions, a poem Rosen wrote earlier this year.

Yesterday he returned to the museum with 125 children from four local schools, who composed their own works inspired by the lions.

He said 'What would very old lions who have been there almost 200 years be dreaming about?  And what would they hear as they sit there, year after year, rain and sun?

"Poems and songs are very good for letting you into the minds of people, and are seomtimes in effect soliloquies.

"It has been very rewarding to be hosted at the Fitzwilliam Museum today, to be moved by words and personal stories.

The visit was organised by Cambridge-based production company Historyworks, which commissioned Rosen's poem as part of Cambridge's 'Cycle of Songs'.

Historyworks also sommissioned a series of songs and raps from composer Kirsty Martin and Cambridge rapper Inja based on the words of Rosen's Lions poem, designed for primary school choirs.

Creative director, Helen Weinstein said: "The museum was humming, literally, with the sound of the choirs, and with the children learning to make noises for poetry and body percussion, culminating in their co-creation of a freestyle rap led by Michael."

Rachel Sinfield, head of educationat the museum, said: "The workshop went really well.

"The children had a wonderful time - watching him captivate an audience of 125 children is really impressive, and they really loved it.

"The lions have become part of local folklore: even if people don't know the museum well, they are familiar with the lions.  They are part of the Trumpington Street landscape, and the idea of the Lions coming to life is a fantastic one.

The schools taking part were Milton Primary, St Phillip's Primary, Milton Road Primary and King's College School.

Ms Sinfield added: "Michael also has writtena book called Sad Book on the death of his son aged 19.

"It's a wonderful book, and we have an ongoing project with East Anglia Children's Hospices in Milton, so he also had a very quiet lunch with some of the parents connected with the hospice, and gave them some copies of his book."


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