In December 2010 we took on a squatted space – the Emporium – at 37 Stokes Croft, Bristol and turned it into an interactive archaeological exhibition for a few days. The exhibition was curated and staffed by the team and attended by people from all walks of life.
The show included artefacts we uncovered at the Turbo Island excavation (2008), photos, films and audio pieces where visitors could listen to homeless people describing places, routes and sites of significance to them – places of contemporary homelessness in Bristol, UK (listen to the audio in ‘Films and Audio’).
Alongside the contemporary history, the excavation revealed an ash layer that contained window glass, roof tiles and evidence of a fire. MA student Gillian Crea offered to undertake a finds report for us and using historical documentation, was able to ascertain that there had once been a building – Holdcroft’s shoe shop – on what is now called Turbo Island. Scouring the internet for people called ‘Holdcroft’, Gillian tracked down Mr John Holdcroft who told us the story of the day his father’s shop was bombed in April 1941 (listen to the audio in ‘Films and Audio). John is an artist and kindly loaned us a painting of his impression of his father’s shop after the bomb.
This exhibition was a landmark. Working together as a team of equals we were able to reveal previously unknown local history to the wider community and include homelessness – its existence, its shapes and forms – in the heritage interpretation of Bristol (UK)