What is social history? Why is it important? How might people approach it differently? What is the role of the artist when it comes to working with social history?  Magpie or educator or both?

I’ve been asking myself these questions over the past few months whilst I’ve been working on a uni project for Queen Street Mill in Burnley.  The more I ponder them the more I realise that my outcome for this project is most likely to be a comment on how people use and engage with social history.

Taking the entries from the 1961-65 injury book as my focus I have constructed a number of puzzles about, not only immediate health & safety (that included in the book) but also the long term health implications of working in the cotton mills. It can be quite difficult to distill this information as it is tracked in different ways, if at all. The idea of presenting a series of logic puzzles begins to tease out questions about the history that is presented to us, its completeness, its bias, the elements that are missing.

So far I have three puzzles illustrating different health & safety issues and relying on different levels of prior knowledge.  This prior knowledge, or lack of it, has a massive impact on our understanding of social history. I’m now at the stage of pulling apart these puzzles into visual icons to encourage viewers to attempt to put the pieces back together. Still lots of roughs to go through and decisions to make!

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