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PSS – Perspectives and partnerships: the story of a display

24 May 2019 by Kay

L to R: Lesley Dixon (Chief Executive of PSS), Sarah Nicholson (artist), Kay Jones (Curator of Urban Community History)

A newly commissioned artwork to celebrate the 100th birthday of social enterprise PSS (Person Shaped Support) has recently been unveiled in the Museum of Liverpool. The team here at the Museum work with lots of different groups and organisations to create exhibits which tell diverse stories of the city. Find out more about the Our City, Our Stories programme.

We were approached by PSS in 2018 to work in partnership to commemorate their innovative work. We were delighted to support their funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (now the National Lottery Heritage Fund). Happily, it was successful.

PSS wanted the proposed display to creatively reflect their organisation, its people and values.

About PSS
Founded by Eleanor Rathbone in 1919, PSS began its life as Liverpool Personal Services Society. It made a huge impact by listening to, supporting and empowering people in need across the city.
From its Liverpool home, PSS kick-started a whole host of innovations in health and social care, including Age UK, Legal Aid, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Relate and Riverside Housing.
PSS is still coming up with new ways to help. This includes mental health services and rehabilitation for women in the criminal justice system, support for people with learning and physical disabilities, and help for families affected by addiction.

Artwork
Working with Dot Art, local artists submitted proposals to produce artworks responding to a detailed brief.
There were a number of great proposals and it was a hard job to whittle them down. The winner was Sarah Nicholson whose ideas around using visual layers and transparent figures which raise questions around the visibility of people experiencing social disadvantage spoke to us all.

The location of the display was to be the Museum Atrium, in ‘the case under the stairs’ as we call it. Its unusual shape offered lots of creative possibilities and challenges!
We met, discussed ideas and over the next few months Sarah produced the artwork and adapted it to fit requirements and practicalities. With every display we also need to think about key messages, interpretation and accessibility and this was no different.

A timeline of PSS’s key dates was applied in vinyl on the inside of the case. Sarah’s artwork consisting of a textile map of the city covering the case base, 100 cast resin figures, bridges and origami buildings was installed over a number of days. Important signs warning the public not to feed the artist were displayed.

A specially made short film which tells the story of PSS and the vital work that it does was shown on the atrium screens.

The display can be seen over the next six months and there will be further special events as part of the centenary.

Find out more about the amazing (and surprising) story of PSS

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