Scarborough Museums Trust’s lockdown digital commissions stay at home online

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust’s lockdown-launched series of New Digital Commissions from leading British artists is complete and available online.

The project was introduced by the trust in response to the first lockdown in March as a “dynamic new approach to its collections, learning and exhibition programming during the Coronavirus crisis”.

Key to the series was a commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality of access and innovative ways to promote this message. A diverse range of artists – Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Kirsty Harris, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Jane Poulton and Feral Practice’s Fiona MacDonald – created digital artworks for release online over the spring and summer across social-media platforms.

Lucy Carruthers’ Animal Archives. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

Trust chief executive Andrew Clay says: “It’s been so important this year for people to have access to the arts and culture: for many people, they’re a thought-provoking lifeline and have a proven positive effect on our mental health.”

Curator Dorcas Taylor says: “Museums and galleries have a social responsibility to support communities, now more than ever before. We can provide a platform for creative expression that enables artists to share their messages to communities in lockdown. Their artworks can support personal wellbeing or become an opportunity to consider some of these wider issues.”

Scarborough Museums Trust has provided a range of access tools to accompany the digital content to support as many people as possible to connect. Among them have been visual guides, in the form of “social stories”, by Scarborough illustrator Savannah Storm that give audiences downloadable information on what to expect before accessing digital content. Subtitles and audio descriptions have been used wherever possible.

Kirsty Harris’s Whispers From The Museum. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

The New Digital Commissions all can be found on YouTube at, other than Jane Poulton and Kirsty Harris’s projects at and respectively.

Lucy Carruthers’ film, Animal Archives: Rewilding The Museum explores how we forge connections at a time of distancing. Interested in the relationship between inside and outside, all the more pertinent during lockdown, she asks how social isolation affects museum objects.

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place is a multi-layered touring and participatory project that uses community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges around home, identity, and displacement.

Jade Montserrat made a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis for the New Digital Commissions project

It started in 2019 in Brighton and Hull and saw the social experiment, which invites honest expression and participation through ultraviolet light, invisible ink and dark spaces, introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough. 

Kirsty Harris created Whispers From The Museum, a six-part online and immersive adventure for children and families, inviting them to read George’s logbook, discover amazing museum objects and take part in art and craft activities. 

Wanja Kimani made a film, Butterfly, that follows a walk from a child’s eye view as she spent more time noticing the world around her and sensory experiences became amplified.

A still from Wanja Kimani’s film Butterfly

Jade Montserrat produced a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis that explores the impact of lockdown and chronicles the process of making, and new ways of being, that encourage mutual support and acts of care.

Jane Poulton produced a series of photographs and text called From Stardust To Stardust, focusing on personal objects she owns as she considers whether those that mean the most to us are often acquired at times of crisis and what comfort they may bring. 

Feral Practice’s film, The Unseesables, explores themes of extinction by focusing on three “unseeable” birds: the great bustard, the corncrake and the great auk. Examples of all three can be found in the trust’s taxidermy collection.

A still from Feral Practice’s film The Unseeables

What next?

Some of the New Digital Commissions artists will be participating in What If? at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda from April 24 to August 30 2021.

Next year’s exhibition will explore “the civic responsibility of museums and their collections and how we could introduce wider narratives into our spaces to make our institutions relevant to both the world and our local community”. 

Jane Poulton travels from stardust to stardust for digital Scarborough gallery

Curl, by Jane Poulton, from her From Stardust To Stardust gallery

WELCOME to From Stardust To Stardust, a new Instagram gallery by artist Jane Poulton for Scarborough Museums Trust’s innovative series of digital commissions.

Poulton’s seven photographic and text-based images “consider how personal objects can bring to mind moments of deep emotion from our own private histories”.

One photographic artwork will be released each day on the social media platform @scarboroughmuseums for seven days from Tuesday, May 26. The gallery subsequently will be available on the website

The trust wants From Stardust To Stardust to be accessible to everyone, so the gallery will include image descriptions and audio files for those who might find them helpful. 

Poulton says: “During exploratory work for this project, I used cherished objects of my own to suggest similarities between museum collections and objects we hold dear ourselves.

Gryphaea, by Jane Poulton, from the From Stardust To Stardust series of seven images for Scarborough Museums Trust

“For example, a gryphaea fossil I found on my local beach gave me – the moment I held it in my hand – a flash of insight into the theory that every living thing on our planet comes from, and returns to, stardust. That brought me great comfort.”

“From stardust to stardust” was the phrase Poulton used to describe that experience. “It’s now the title for this project, which reflects on moments of personal uncertainty, fear or loss – my own and other people’s – through small objects that recall those times,” she says. 

“Though charms or mementos such as these have no measurable influence on the course of events, their power lies in what, or who, they represent.”

From Stardust To Stardust forms part of a series of digital commissions from Scarborough Museums Trust in response to the Corona crisis. The trust has asked Poulton, Kirsty Harris, Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat and Feral Practice to create digital artworks to be released online across social media platforms over the next four months. 

Originally trained in textiles, Poulton is a visual artist and writer who creates “socially engaged participatory projects that create a long-term impact and lasting legacy”. She has worked on many projects with members of the public, not least distinctly identified groups, particularly within community learning settings, where she aims to build confidence and give a voice to those whose views otherwise might not be heard.