2019 saw us gather oral history and interpret the history of Kodak in Hemel Hempstead.
With the help of funding from SHARE Museums East Hidden History programme we were able to firstly, gathering the memories of staff who once worked for Kodak and secondly, create an exhibition in the Marlowes Shopping Centre. The exhibition subsequently attracted over 3,075 visitors and the overall theme explored the experiences of people who worked for Kodak in Hemel Hempstead and how the area became known as ‘Kodak Town’.
Over the period of 3 months, prior to the exhibition, staff and volunteers set up stalls and gave talks at various events and community groups across the borough. We attended events such as Armed Forces Day but we also reached out to community groups like U3A groups and Kodak reunions. The purpose was to ‘get the word out’ about our exhibition and subsequently get people, who once worked for Kodak, signed up to being interviewed. We had 25 interviews recorded, quotes of which were used in the exhibition. We discovered some interesting stories and gained insight into the scale of Kodak’s operations in the area and the different sites around the town.
For this project we hosted 3 object handling sessions at Berkhamsted Arts and Crafts shop. We used the opportunity to share with younger audiences about the art of film photography, many of whom had never seen film or handled a film camera before. We began each session talking about the history of photography, going through the decades and handling old fashioned cameras.
The participants were then each given a 12”X12” canvas to decorate in any way they liked. Of course their artwork needed to be inspired by the Kodak and they had to incorporate a camera somewhere in their work. Some put this obviously, others more subtly. One was even reflected in the eye of a bumble bee.
During the session and if the weather was nice (which was the case for 2 out of the 3 workshops) they were able to create their own piece of light sensitive paper. This meant laying out interesting shaped items such as jewellery, doilies and sequins on to a sheet of paper and exposing it to sun light. After a few minutes we removed the items and an imprint was left on the material.
Both the light sensitive paper and the a total of 50 works on canvas were then displayed in our exhibition.
Once again the Marlowes Shopping Centre provided us with the use of an empty shop unit for which we are very grateful. The exhibition opened with the private viewing event on Friday 18th October, with speeches of welcome and introduction. The Mayor of Dacorum, Cllr. Terry Douris, cut the ‘ribbon’, which was a length of negative film provided by Kodak especially for the opening. “Amazing, fascinating, thoroughly interesting, just a few ways of describing the ‘Hidden History of Kodak’ exhibition in the Marlowes Shopping Centre that I have had the pleasure of opening. I will definitely be back before the end of the month to look at all the work and history that have been put beautifully together by the Dacorum Heritage Trust, a simply fantastic must see exhibition” Cllr. Terry Douris (Mayor of Dacorum)
We would like to thank our amazing volunteers specially ones who constructed and painted a 1:50 scale model of the Kodak Tower showing how it was prior to its conversion a few years ago.
Feedback from the exhibition visitors was very positive. They stated that they enjoyed seeing the exhibition and want us to do more in the future. Visitors found it interesting and informative, and many said that it rekindled old memories.