THANKYOU, AND AUREVOIR by Volunteer Sophie McGrath


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My time volunteering at Salisbury Museum over the last few months has been fantastic. I began volunteering as a way of gaining experience of life in a museum. Having done a History degree I wanted to take further my love for the subject, how it is represented and displayed, how we as the public engage with history through sites such as the Museum,  and I applied for an MA Museum Studies, which I will be starting at the beginning of October.

It has been amazing to participate in a variety of aspects of the museum. Beginning with the engagement volunteering I was able to spend time in the galleries, interacting with staff and visitors, whilst learning about Salisbury through the truly fantastic material held by the Museum. I very much look forward to seeing how the Museum develops and particularly enjoyed Adrian Green’s talk at the coffee morning this summer.

I feel very fortunate to have participated in the Rex Whistler archive project. This was not something I had expected and has been an incredibly enjoyable, interesting and satisfying project to be a part of. I recently visited Mottisfont and was thrilled to see the Whistler room. Having seen Rex’s plans for his murals and then to see his finished pieces was a very special moment for me.

Thank you to everyone at the Museum, my experience with you has been so enjoyable and totally invaluable.

Thank you Sophie, and best wishes to you

Exhibitions Officer Joyce Paesen tells us how it is done


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Our beloved Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows is finally where it belongs, in our exhibition gallery! After five years it is back for six months, right into the landscape that inspired Constable.

It didn’t come here by accident but it was carefully planned for. For the last year we have been working hard on this project. As the exhibitions officer I was responsible for arranging everything from the layout, transport, insurance and loans, to painting the space and actually hanging the works on the wall.

This year I was fortunate to work with Nicola Trowell, who is our trainee for this project. She helped me in doing the research and captions.

As you hopefully know by now, we are in a five year project with the Aspire Partnership (Tate, National Museum Wales, National Museums Scotland, Colchester + Ipswich museums and Oriel Y Parc). The six- footer came from Oriel Y Parc in St. Davids, Wales, it took a long way to get here. 322 km to be precise.

I am particularly proud of the third room of the exhibition, which shows Constable’s influence on 20st and 21st Century artists. It shows how important that big painting is, and how it has become part of our mindset.

The thing I have loved the most in working on this exhibition is having such a great team to fall back on. My colleagues, volunteers and everybody else that helped. We are amazing!

img_5304The A team of painters

img_5365…and don’t we have a lovely Medieval building?  It was tight, with only 2cms to spare!

img_5314Hanging some works from our own collection

img_5367In our gallery, almost ready to go on the wall

img_5321My dog was very happy I was home and at last able to give her some attention, instead of the exhibition!


It’s Here!


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Expectation had been great all day.  Then, on a murky, thundery afternoon, it finally appeared. John Constable’s ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’ (1831), on loan from the Tate, London.  All 1.52 m x 1.9 m of it. The only question was…would it fit through the door?  Of course it would.  It is an old friend who has been here before….


Purchased with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Manton Foundation, Art Fund (with a contribution form the Woolfson Foundation) and Tate Members.

Constable in Context 17 September – 25 March 2017



Projects Galore!


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Aspire Trainee Update

Next week marks the start of a very exciting (albeit briefly stressful) chapter in my Aspire traineeship at the museum – the Constable in Context exhibition is finally opening! One thing that I really did not appreciate enough before starting the traineeship was the amount of effort by staff and volunteers that goes into preparing every small detail of the exhibition. The last couple of months have indeed been hard work, and sometimes stressful, however they have also been hugely gratifying and thoroughly enjoyable.

Since July, I have been working on a variety of projects in relation to the exhibition. To now see some of these completed, or at least nearing completion, has been very rewarding. One of the highlights of my time so far was sending the finished exhibition captions off for printing. This was the first of my projects, and one that consumed a great deal of my time for the first month of the traineeship.  There was a great sense of accomplishment (and sheer relief) following the amount of time which other members of staff and myself had spent perfecting these captions – I now have a new found respect for those who have had to create hundreds of captions for an exhibition! See below for an image of the first caption I ever mounted when helping Joyce set up our Anna Dillion exhibition upstairs. For some reason, she decided not to use it in the exhibition (no idea why……).



Now that the exhibition is opening, I turn my attention fully towards education and marketing. My next two projects, currently nearing completion, are an educational resource for schools visiting the exhibition and a family trail around the Museum. I have really enjoyed this aspect of the traineeship and I am looking forward to getting more involved with the educational side of the exhibition. So watch this space!



A Good Time Was Had!


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Thursday 1 September was a date I trust we all had marked in our diaries?  Certainly, many Volunteers were here….eighty five to be exact.

The Volunteers’ Summer party was a busy, and very happy affair. Many thanks to Bridget who organised everything, including the weather (a bit too warm Bridget!)  and the fiendishly impossible quiz, which, nevertheless, the Ladies in Blue managed to win with nearly full marks.

Thanks to all who came, who helped set up and to clear up. We look forward to the next one!

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Paint Off!


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It will be a busy weekend in the Close. The marquees are up already for the stunning Heritage and Craft Exhibition outside the West Front of the Cathedral (if you have never been you have missed something wonderful) and  Plain Arts Salisbury and the Salisbury Museum have their own event on Saturday 10 September.

We welcome you to the 7th annual Paint Off, this year being based at the front of the Museum. Painters of all ages and abilities are welcome. You can buy your ticket on the day (£8 for members, £10 non-members, children £4 and £5).

Paint Off

For further information on Plain Arts Salisbury, please visit their website

It is also the launch of Salisbury Museum’s Rainbow Photographic Competition, prizes sponsored by London Camera Exchange.

Rainbow 13 Jan 2016

Join us!



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This summer I was lucky enough to volunteer with the Museum during the weekly Discovery Days which ran throughout the school holiday. There was a wide range of fun activities which both parents and children greatly enjoyed, and I also loved getting stuck in!

Suzie Gutteridge linked her two art workshops with the Museum’s touring Egyptian exhibition  Some of the activities on the first day included making a headdress, writing your name in hieroglyphics and turning cardboard tubes into golden bracelets. Everybody was really creative, and the glitter used lingers in the hall to this day! The clay cats made by everyone were particularly successful and very popular.

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Later in the month the projects all centered around boats. You could make flags with your initials on, pictures with moving boats or add to a large decoupage picture. One of the main activities was making origami boats of varying difficulty. Whether they were simple, or the larger Egyptian long boats, everyone tried to get involved. Some children even added masts or decorated their ships to race on the river.

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Additionally, Louise Luton linked her workshop to the Museum’s costume gallery and the ghost stories being told by Emma Carroll on the same day. Children were able to create their own ghostly silhouettes and figures or design their own Victorian costumes, although I did spot a couple of superheroes! Emma’s wonderful story telling went perfectly alongside this, and there were also people from Waterstones reading other children’s books in the King’s Room. This was absolutely perfect for younger children.

The Museum was also lucky enough to have Jane Hardstaff come and talk about her book ‘River Daughter,’ which centered on a polar bear that used to live in the Tower of London during the Tudor period. Her talk was very informative with someone lucky enough to win a replica Tudor coin. There was also quiz to get everyone involved, with some challenging questions that I didn’t even know the answers to!

However my favourite event over the summer was the ‘Dance like an Egyptian’ workshop held by Bridget Poulter. A brilliant event that was enjoyed by all that took part, I almost felt inclined to stand up and have a go myself! After a general talk about Egypt and what we know about their relationship with dance and music she was able to teach a number of routines that were performed very well. A special mention must be given to the one dad that took part, which was brilliant to watch.

Overall, each of the different discovery days were very well received and I really enjoyed meeting the speakers and helping the children with their creative projects. Hopefully next year’s events will be even busier.

Thanks Eleanor!




ARCHERS BRACERS? by Volunteer Keith Rodger


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Volunteer Keith Rodger has been applying himself to what is apparently yet one more of many mysteries surrounding ancient peoples. His is the kind of thinking, and experimentation, which archaeologists and historians must do all the time. It makes an interesting read….

I have been thinking about the stone slips, found with numerous skeletons, which are identified as ‘bracers’ used by archers to protect the inside of their wrists from the lash of the bowstring.  My wife and I have both been told separately by archers that the bracers will not work because the string will catch behind the near end of the stone.  Intrigued and persuaded by their comments, I investigated.

We have seen three designs: one with two holes, one hole at each end, one with six holes, three at each end, both in Salisbury Museum, and at one with four holes two at each end, in Devizes Museum.  Internet research revealed similar ‘bracers’ and some with even more holes, some of which were filled with rivets.  photo brace 1The only one we have seen that might be in situ is with the “Amesbury Archer”, and that one might be on the outside of his arm and is associated with a large pin.  Once again, internet research revealed that others have been found on the outside of the forearm, which is not the place for a wrist guard.  From the outside of the display cases, we cannot see any sign of wear around the holes that might have resulted from movement of a cord or thong. One must be careful not to read too much into the position of artefacts in graves.  They can be moved and/or they might have been placed in the grave without reference to their function in life.  Indeed a second ‘bracer’ is near the ‘Amesbury Archer’s’ feet.  The ‘Stonehenge Archer’ might have been buried with his ‘bracer’ in place but his grave had been badly damaged by animals and the photo does not show where the bracer was found.

For a bracer to be effective it must deflect the bowstring without snagging it, as this would cause the archer’s hand to move and spoil his aim.  It must be easy to fit single-handedly, be comfortable and non-encumbering.

I have made simulations in wood of both the two and four-holed versions.  It is easy to devise suitable means of attachment using a simple loop of string.  The four-holed version fitted more snugly to my wrist, snagged the bowstring less frequently and might be a development.  Both types protected my wrist effectively, most of the time.  However, I still received string lash to my thumb and the fletching cut my top knuckle.  If this were my bracer, I would make a better one.  In particular, I would want some kind of glove or mitten to protect my thumb and knuckle.

Protection might be provided in numerous ways, e.g. by binding the arm with a leather sheet or sleeve.  In this case, the stone slip might have been used as a fastener, rather like a cleat, and/or a spreader/stiffener to stop the leather from creasing.  This could explain finding them on the outside of the arm.  It might also explain the absence of wear in the holes, since it would be rather static.  The Amesbury Archer’s pin might have been part of this fastening.  Clearly, the thumb and knuckle guards could be incorporated with the sleeve; this construction would also have helped to keep the sleeve taut.

I have no explanation for the six-holed version, there seems to be no advantage in having the extra hole.  However, some multi-hole ‘bracers’ have rivets closing the holes so, maybe, the extra holes were ornamental.  Possibly, some ‘bracers’ were purely ornamental; there are examples of such developments, e.g. officers’ epaulets which were once protection from downwards sword cuts.

Clearly, all of this is speculation based on incomplete evidence and looking from outside the display cabinets.  Of the various options proposed above, the hand guard plus sleeve with a buckle/tensioner/stiffener seems to give the best design for the equipment and is within the capabilities of Neolithic people.  Which raises the question “Why use stone, why not wood?”.  I suggest that making a flat wood version rather than using flat slate or similar stone would have been more difficult and a round stick would have got in the way.  Of course all of this is speculation and could well be wrong!  All we can only ever say is that this or that explanation is consistent with known facts.



Dates for your diary….


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The Volunteer Summer Party is this Thursday, 1 September, 6pm – 7.30pm. Do let Bridget know you are coming

Volunteer Coffee Mornings are 4 and 5 October , 10.30am – noon with a talk about the Finding Pitt-Rivers Project.

A group of Volunteers lead Spotlight Tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday throughout September, at 2.30pm. You may well be leading one, but if not, have you thought about coming along? Guaranteed fascinating!

Details of all of these, and more, in your Volunteer Newsletter. Have you seen it yet?