Meeting Point: Ripon Museums

The Workhouse Museum Ripon © Jonathan Turner

The Workhouse Museum Ripon © Jonathan Turner

All In A Day’s Work was a contemporary reinterpretation of the archectiecture and history of the Workhouse Museum, Ripon. Led by Catherine Bertolt the project reanimated the Workhouse through site-specific installation, bringing to life the harsh conditions of a Victorian Workhouse

Watch a video of All in a Day’s Work

  • Facts

    Title All in a Day’s Work
    Historical Sites The Workhouse Museum, one of The Yorkshire Law and Order Museums, Ripon
    Lead Artists Catherine Bertola
    Artwork Sculptural Installation, Performance and Photography
    Partners / Stakeholders Ripon Museums, Arts&Heritage and Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund
    Budget £8000.00
    Development 3 months
    Dates Friday 25 March to Sunday 27 November 2016 in the Workhouse Museum, Ripon. Monday 8 to Saturday 13 August, a week of performances inside the vagrant cells in the Workhouse Museum, Ripon.
  • Description


    The Workhouse Museum Ripon All in a day's work by Catherine Bertola © Jonathan Turner

    The Workhouse Museum Ripon All in a day’s work by Catherine Bertola © Jonathan Turner


    All in a Day’s Work is part of the Meeting Point project led by Arts&Heritage, which saw nine new contemporary art installations at four museums in the North East and five museums in Yorkshire during 2016. Meeting Point is funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund.

    All in a Day’s Work, was a new commission made by artist Catherine Bertola in response the history and architecture of the Workhouse Museum, Ripon. Drawing on the history of still life and tableaux, the work seeks to invoke a sense of the endless physical hardship endured by the inmates, and the segregation they experienced within the Workhouse.

    The work featured a series of sculptural installations located within three of the sleeping cells in the old Casual Ward. The cells were filled with large quantities of materials associated with different forms of labour once undertaken by the inmates of the Workhouse: stone breaking, wood chopping and laundry. Inside the door of each room stands a solitary stool, as if waiting for another occupant to sit and begin work.

    Over the course of six days in August 2016 the static installations were activated by a series of performances, in which people dressed in 19th Century workhouse uniforms sat alone in the cells, silently carrying out the task at hand. A series of photographs documenting these performances have been left on permanent display as a reminder of what the reality of poverty once meant.


    • To find a new and creative way to tell the story of the Workhouse of the life of the people who lived there
    • To engage Museum volunteers in the process
    • To increase visitor numbers to the Ripon Museums by offering a high quality experience
    • To engage in an action-learning project that will develop Ripon Museums cultural offer by commissioning contemporary artists


    Arts&Heritage supported the nine participating museums throughout the process, sharing knowledge of presenting contemporary art projects and commissions in non-traditional art spaces.

    A networking event between the participating museums and 40 artists from across the UK took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and visits to artists’ studios were arranged. Museum teams also met with peers at other properties to learn how they successfully delivered contemporary art projects at their museums and heritage sites.

    All museums developed their own Artist’s Brief. Following the networking event artists were invited to send in an expression of interest to museums that interested therm.

    Three artists were shortlisted by each museum to draw up a more detailed proposal and were paid £500 each


    Information to follow


    £8,000 to include all materials, travel and installation costs

    £500 paid to each of 3 artists shortlisted

  • Audience Engagement


    • The commission was used to raise the profile of Ripon Museums to the local audience and to attract new audiences
    • To attract contemporary visual artists to reinterpret the Ripon museum site
    • To develop and build a regional and national audience for the Meeting Point project commissions

    A marketing campaign for the Meeting Point project was led and delivered by Emma Pybus and David Brookbanks.

    The Meeting Point project was documented by Jonathan Turner and Peter Spence


    All in a Day’s Work had up to 30 volunteers taking part in the week-long series of performances that will bought the installation to life.

    All in a Day’s Work comprises of three sculptural installations located inside some of the vagrant sleeping cells at The Workhouse Museum. They reflect the various types of labour carried out in the workhouse during the 1800s and I’m looking for a team of volunteers to bring the installations to life by performing the work inmates would have been expected to do, including stone cutting, wood chopping and laundry folding.

    Life at The Workhouse was hard and I’d like to give visitors to the Workhouse Museum a unique perspective by turning my installation into a living artwork, with the help of a team of enthusiastic volunteers.” Artist Catherine Bertola

    The performance week took place from Monday 8 to Saturday 13 August. Volunteers from the local community helped create a poignant tribute to the Workhouse’s inhabitants by undertaking stone breaking, wood chopping and laundry folding within the cells allowing visitors to experience the sights and sounds of life at the Workhouse like never before.

    James Etherington, Director of Ripon Museum Trust said: “Catherine’s installation puts the ‘work’ back into the workhouse in a way we couldn’t do with traditional museum interpretation. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in history, museums or contemporary art to play a starring role in a living, breathing exhibition. It will be a fascinating experience for visitors too.”

  • Artist Information

    Catherine Bertola at The Workhouse Museum © Jonathan Turner

    Catherine Bertola at The Workhouse Museum © Jonathan Turner


    Catherine Bertola is a Newcastle based artist whose work involves drawings, objects and installations that respond directly to a place and its history. Focusing on the architecture and history of the Workhouse Bertola has drawn on materials and performance to evoke a sense of what life would have been like for people confined within the interior of the Workhouse.

    Catherine Bertola (b. 1976, Rugby) studied at Newcastle University and currently lives and works in Gateshead. She has worked on a number of temporary and permanent commissions including; V&A (London, UK), National Museum Wales (Cardiff, UK), Government Art Collection (UK), The National Trust and National Trust for Scotland (UK), Vital Arts (London, UK), Leeds City Art Gallery Collection (Leeds, UK) and Locus+ (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK). She has work in several public and private collections and is represented by Workplace Gallery, Gateshead and M+R Fricke, Berlin.