Helen Weinstein

Helen Weinstein: Creative Director

My multimedia work involves understanding audiences and their participation. I'm developing my practice in Public Art and Public History to engage the public with their sense of place by creating immersive sound installations and films to deliver narratives that allow audiences to explore place making, often working with broadcasters and technology companies to prototype new mobile technologies, such as Calvium's Mobile App & Arm's Mbed, aimed at allowing electronics to be more easily incorporated into creative arts projects.  

I've devised a range of public participatory projects which have explicitly used digital technology to not only create and grow an audience, but for the technology to deliver a deeper engagement with co-creation in the community through the use of interactive and participatory practices.  I'm presently piloting a variety of bluetooth beacons, in particular in our project for schools and communities called Creating My Cambridge, collaborating with Jonathan Austin and his colleagues at ARM using Mbed beacons for place-making public art installations.  It is very exciting!

I have a long track record of working with the BBC & other broadcasters, successfully translating academic work for broadcast, developing content for programming on TV, Radio and the Web. Accordingly, I've appointments on a variety of Editorial and Commissioning Boards, including History Editorial Advisory Board for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and a strategic BBC role to assist with communicating research into media products, and sourcing new talent and stories. I have produced over eighty documentaries and history programmes for both radio and television, and I am the founder of the media production company, Historyworks.  My main projects are for 'BBC World War One At Home' in London, and Creative Director & Producer for the 'Cycle of Songs' and most recently our Historyworks Arts project called 'Creaitng My Cambridge' working with the poet Michael Rosen and the CBBC's Horrible Histories songwriters, for a project which uses 'history beneath your feet' to inspire creative explorations of the relationship between the past and the present, and build a sense of belonging! 

Museums and galleries, archives and libraries, colleges and universities, community groups, heritage insitutions and cultural policy makers

Historyworks is useful for museums and community groups wanting exhibition or learning content, academics needing help with designing and delivering impact with multimedia products, because we know how to listen and to tailor a media product for your intended audience.

In the heritage sector I am involved in several projects to develop participatory and community engagement practices and to support interpretation and provide innovative and realistic wider public engagement. For an example of partnership work with the York Museums Trust and the City Archaeologist where Historyworks is producing a series of multimedia products to help the public engage with the city’s heritage, see the York Jewish History Trail leaflet, app and podcasts.

At Historyworks we offer consultancies that help organizations to develop their practice and theory of participation with a focus on social justice, diversity, and public engagement; looking at the interaction of audiences with museums, galleries, heritage sites, and the media; helping organizations to innovate and develop to realize their potential in terms of wider public engagement, particularly relating to community relationships and volunteering, and identifying and designing projects  and multi-media products in partnership with researchers.

Training in Communication and Production

Historyworks delivers a wide-ranging set of training workshops, and we have delivered these in Universities and  Museum and Community group contexts.  We specialize in helping academics learn how best to communicate their research.  I have run workshops at Cambridge, York, Newcastle, Warwick, Oxford, London, to coach researchers to learn media skills such as how to communicate your research to a lay audience, how to find a press hook in your research topic and write a press release, how to relate your research to a radio or television audience and pitch a programme or series idea to a broadcaster.

Historyworks also has had great success in running training workshops for staff and researchers in museums, archives, universities, in order that they make be able to make basic podcasts and film interviews for their presentations and websites.  This is part of our toolkit for coaching researchers to deliver to partners outside their institutions, especially to produce multi-media products for academic research projects,  enabling school children and their teachers to use learning materials in museums and archives, allowing the public to engage with an exhibition produced in partnership between researchers and cultural institutions.

I have founded an intern programme designed to offer MA and PhD level students an opportunity to translate their research and writing skills into a form of public output. It has been possible to create close to fifty intern places per annum, and student interns have executed excellent placements relating to researching objects and exhibition materials, scripting audio podcasts and radio programmes, working on film and television content. I train and mentor many of the interns myself, and offer workshops in formats and communication, audiences and accessibility, interpretation and label-writing, storytelling and scripting, recording and editing. Several of my interns have won employment in media production companies and in heritage institutions as a direct result of their placements. See our intern recruitment film on the historyworks youtube channel.

TV & Radio Broadcasting

I have presented and produced over 80 Documentaries for radio and television. Many of my radio documentaries have been commissioned for the series Document which I have produced from the first series in 1997 onwards  

My highlight has been winning Sony Gold Award for Best News Programme of the Year for ‘Document: The Day They Made It Rain’ about cold war cloud seeding experiments. It took me over two years to track down the cloud seeding pilots and their logbooks, and it was worth it to wrong-foot the MOD. It is the first time a history programme has ever won the top news programme award, and in the words of Jon Snow, my programme won “for making the news rather than reporting it.”

Memory Like Shells was a Remembrance Sunday featured documentary for BBC Radio 4 which I worked on for two years as an oral history project collaborating with the composer, Karen Wimhurst and the veteran, Norman Winchester. See my article where I describe the making of the documentary and composition based on a lengthy oral history project and reflect on memory making and the relationship with sound as a stimulant to memory.

I have designed the content for numerous TV documentaries and series. TV is a relentlessly structured genre and there is not often space for the lyrical and subtle analysis possible in radio documentaries, but my favourite programme that I have produced is an epic for Channel 4 on the pamphlet wars of the English Civil War called ‘Blood On Our Hands’ 

Documentary Films

With the team at my company, Historyworks, I have made many made-to-measure short documentaries commissioned for exhibition spaces in galleries and museums, libraries and archives, archaeology and heritage sites.

Here are two of my favourite examples:

Five Sisters

A documentary film was commissioned by the York Art Gallery Director to show the public how the artists, Matthew Collings and Emma Biggs, construct their paintings and sculptural mosaics, using thousands of fragments of medieval pottery shards. Further, in order to give audiences interpretive insights, the artists explain their design of colour, shape and form, and their motivations to relate the art work to the stained glass called ‘The Five Sisters’ in York Minster.

Shandy Hall

Historyworks was commissioned to make a short documentary film for a heritage website introducing the public to Shandy Hall by giving audiences an intriguing glimpse of the quirky riches contained in the home of famous eighteenth-century author, Laurence Sterne. The brief from the curator was that our film be careful not to reveal to the public too much of the sensory experience of this gem, but rather tempt audiences to visit the tucked-away place in person.

Sound Installations

Helen Weinstein has a long track record of making innovative sound installations relating to oral history projects and participatory public art projects, co-creating with a variety of sound and electronic artists, composers and musicians. These have been performed in a variety of appealing acoustic spaces ranging from riverside mills to stately home halls, church vestries and cathedral chancels, community halls and homeless shelter stairwells.

Advisor

My work focuses on working with the cultural sector to support organizations to develop their relationships not only with academia but also with their publics, particularly relating to community engagement and volunteering. I am involved in conversations with policy makers to help understand audience development and community participation, and realize the potential of wider public engagement in the cultural sectors.

  •  Presentations at English Heritage, The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Museums Libraries & Archives Council, The Arts & Humanities Research Council
  •  Co-Chair for London Mayor’s Heritage Diversity Task Force on Diversifying Audiences to Museums, Libraries, Archives, Galleries, Heritage Sites, Parks and Gardens; Chair for the London Mayor’s Cultural Leadership Programme.

Broadcast Advisor

I have been appointed to the Strategy Advisory and the Editorial Advisory Board for the BBC, to assist with communicating academic research in to media products, and sourcing new talent and stories.

Previous content includes:

  •  Today Programme
  •  BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour 
  •  BBC Radio 4 Archive Hour
  •  BBC Radio 4 In Our Time
  •  BBC Radio 4 Document
  •  BBC Radio 4 Timewatch
  •  BBC Balderdash & Piffle
  •  BBC History of America in 24 Hours, History Channel

Museum & Heritage Advisor

  •  Mentor on the Clore Cultural Leadership programme 
  •  Mentor on range of museum curator CPD programmes 

Research Advisory Board Member for National Museum of Science and Industry Research Advisory Board (The Science Museum, London; The National Railway Museum, York; The National Media Museum, Bradford)

University Researcher and Leader

I'm a Research Professor at Clare Hall & the History Faculty, University of Cambridge, where I'm writing a book called "The Public Past" and setting up this company, historyworkstv to support Public History initiatives across the UK, especially helping with the Public History Seminars in Yorks, at Cambridge University's History Faculty, and at the IHR in London.  We are really committed to helping to support a national conversation about Public History issues.  Many of my research projects are based up in York where I'm Visiting Professor at the University of York and I have been the founding director of IPUP, the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past.  I research and write about public participation with the past in the cultural sector, and you can see the range of projects here at The Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past. At IPUP I have a raft of funded projects.  At present I'm involved with leading an AHRC funded project called PHoSTEM (Public History of Science, Technology, Engineering & Medicine) in partnership with the Science Museum and HPS at Leeds. Also, we have funding from Arts Council England on a partnership project with the Collections Trust, the Diversity in Heritage Group, and the British Museum, for which I'm the Project Manager to deliver a new portal of research materials on Participatory Practices.  The most ambitious long-term research project has won 4.3 million Euros to research the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade, called EUROTAST, and on this project I lead on training and implementing public engagement and dissemination for the project. At IPUP, after several years of negotiation, I've helped to design the successful new MA for the teaching of Public History at the University of York, with core courses on theory and practice.  This has commenced at the University of York’s History Department in October 2012, and all of those enrolled will be enriched from a  placement in a museum or gallery, policy or marketing company, archive or library, media organization or heritage institution.  My other big commitment for the next two years is supporting the AHRC Advisory & playing my part to help lead the AHRC's Cultural Value Project. We put out funding calls over the course of 2013, and we encourage all those who are invested in this area and may submit for a case study or a research project, to look out for funding calls and read the reports as they are published by AHRC.  See pages: 

http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/research/fundedthemesandprogrammes/culturalvalueproject/projectadvisorygroup/