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Exploring the North East’s history

This term, the Durham MBA (Full-time) cohort visited Beamish Museum in Consett as part of their Economics for Global Business module.

Beamish is an open air ‘working museum’ set in 350 acres only nine miles away from Durham City. It’s a place which allows visitors to gain an insight into what life was like for those living in the North East of England in the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and most recently the 1950s. Not only are insights gained by the historic houses and objects, but history is brought even further to life by hundreds of ‘engagers’ (a mixture of employees and volunteers) in historic costumes.

The visit helped students explore the socio-economic setting of the North East, which will be their home while they study their MBA and provide them with a much better understanding of local people’s social, economic and cultural history. In addition, it also aimed to increase the awareness and interest of students in economic and social problems, which of course still affect many people in developing and emerging economies, as well as marginalised groups of developed economies.

A particular example to help students appreciate more clearly the problems people face who don’t have access to financial services was how consumers used to save in their local grocery shop and the expectations banks placed on customers’ minimum wealth or income before they were offered the opportunity to open a bank account. The visit also helped students explore how a lack of access to social security or insurance effects people’s lives and economic development. An example looked at as part of the visit was the impact on mining families if a miner had an accident or died, as well as the beginning of the National Health Service (NHS) in a 1950s Community Centre.

In preparation for the visit, the class benefited from a guest lecture by Ceylin Williams, Head of People Development at Beamish Museum, on 16 October. The visit served not only to give students an introduction to Beamish Museum and its ethos, but also to highlight the potential economic and social contributions of charities, focusing in particular on the museum’s workforce which consists of over 400 employees and nearly 500 volunteers, and the museum’s policy on dementia friendliness.

Despite the rain on the day of the visit, students had a very positive impression of both the visit and the Museum itself. Many students were particularly impressed to learn about the life of miners during a visit to a drift mine and miners’ houses. A student shared:

“Beamish is really unique experience. Now I have a much better understanding of the social, economic and cultural history of the North East of England. We all really enjoyed visiting different sites in Beamish and most of us explored much more than we planned.”