Comment on Blog Content

We are more than pleased that, occasionally, readers comment on our blog posts.  You may notice the indication of a comment where it appears in the upper left hand corner of the post itself.  A comment today, from Volunteer Sue Allenby, is so interesting we have decided to give it greater prominence here (with her permission):

Further to the blog on the Constable in Context Exhibition from a volunteer who so obviously enjoyed it, I do so agree and I have a further comment to make:

For my first ‘slot’ as a volunteer for Constable in Context, apart from walking round the Museum, I was positioned in the corridor at the beginning of the Exhibition. So many people came up and asked me where the Constable was without having looked at the earlier depictions of the Cathedral, I decided to say “not yet” and to guide them gently into the first room and point out what they were seeing in there, then on to the lovely but restrained Frederick Nash watercolours in the corridor, remarking that they should remember how shocking contemporaries found Constable, and that this was the way for them to experience the same emotions. Only then did I show them into the gallery where the Constable hung. The sharp intake of breath as they suddenly understood the point of the Exhibition was very rewarding.

Update from Nicola – Trails and Outreach



When the Constable in Context exhibition first opened last month, I briefly worried that I would feel a loss of purpose in my traineeship. However I would argue that the opposite has happened – I am now busier and more inspired than ever!

For the last month or so I have been predominantly focused on finalising a Constable-themed trail around the Museum, in order to have it ready for October Half Term. This has been very exciting for me, as it involved discussing proposals with a designer and seeing my ideas really come to life. It was a lovely feeling to finally receive approval for the trail last week and hold a finalised physical copy! The trail is now being handed out at the front desk to families and so far the feedback from them has been positive!


When I have not been designing trails, I have been partaking in Constable Outreach and marketing. One of my highlights from the last month was visiting a group with Learning Disabilities. We made rainbows using a torch, a glass of water and piece of paper; we drew pictures of different weathers; and we discussed Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831. Some of their descriptions of the painting were incredible – and it really brought home to me how art can move and affect us all in different ways. This trip has really inspired me to work towards making art and heritage more easily accessible to groups who may not always have the means to access it themselves.

Next up on my project list is creating an outdoor family trail based around Constable. At the moment, this involves me walking around a very autumnal and beautiful Salisbury!


Nicola Trowell

NEVER! by Volunteer Graham Chubb


, , ,

Never volunteer! Or that is what I was told when being called up for the army, but throughout my life I have volunteered for numerous causes including the army, Cubs, a school PTA and blood donation. My reward? It was seeing the pleasure and help it gave to youngsters in particular.

Now I have volunteered at the Museum, archiving old photo negatives since my hobby is photography, and I am very interested in local landscape and people. I have found the task of great interest and, though some of it is just routine, every now and then I find a real gem. I have found photos of both my parents, one of my sisters and will hope to find the rest of my siblings. In-laws, old friends and places that have since changed out of all recognition have all appeared from the archive. This has brought back many old memories of different things that have happened to me and the places I have lived and worked since I have been  in Wiltshire. Some memories good, some bad and some funny!

So all in all I enjoy volunteering and get a lot of satisfaction from it. Give it a try. You never know what you may find along the way, and it may just be what you are looking for.

My longest running volunteering effort, and the one I am most proud of, has been blood donation for which I have just completed my 100th donation. Though you never see the results, who knows who you may have helped. Why not give that a try as well?

Graham Chubb


salisbury-museum-support-us-volunteerNot already a Volunteer? Find out more here



Anne Lyles on Constable’s Later Works


, ,

With apologies to those who know all this already, and more….

Anne Lyles was one of those speakers who we are fortunate enough to have at many events in the Museum, who you know could talk for hours on her subject and the audience would still want more. On Thursday evening she spoke for just one hour on the later works of John Constable, and Salisbury from the Meadows is an example. This painting, known as one of Constable’s “six footers”, was, incidentally, very nearly the first to be bought by the nation in the period immediately after his death. In the end, it was The Cornfield, one of his early works. When we looked at a slide of the two, side by side, the difference in style was immediately clear.

Constable’s early works were very realistic paintings, largely of his home county Suffolk – the beautiful, idyllic scenes we always associate with the archetypal English painter. Anne explained that in the 1820s and 30s however, he spent some time in Brighton where his sick wife sought the recuperative sea air. During this time he began to develop a looser style, applying thicker paint and using artistic licence by, for example, ‘moving’ buildings in order to improve composition, or, perhaps, make a point. All of this can be seen in Salisbury from the Meadows. The interpretation screen next to the painting in the Museum highlights some of these features.


We can make up our own minds about which of his styles we prefer but must allow a great artist to develop his style. Anne gave us further fascinating insight by telling us that Constable was one of those painters who never knew when he had finished, and kept fiddling with his work. Any art teacher will tell you that is a disaster! He fiddled to the point that, having sold a painting, he would tell the buyer he would just add another layer of varnish. He would then keep the painting for a few more months, altering and adding rather to the despair of the owner!

I can’t wait for Anne’s next talk!

Anne Lyles is an art historian and curator of 18th and 19th British Art at the Tate in London.  You might be interested in this site in order to read more….

Wow! What a Tour…!

Wiltshire in 100 objects!

The lovely works of Anna Dillon and the story of the North Wessex Downs have left and have made way for Wiltshire in 100 objects. It has been inspired by the British Museum/BBC Story of the World in 100 Objects and this project, which tells a ‘Story of Wiltshire in 100 Objects’, has at its heart the collections of museums across the County. It is supported by the Arts Council England through the Renaissance Strategic Support Fund. The project has been led by the Wiltshire Museum as part of the Wessex Museums Partnership with Salisbury Museum and the Dorset County Museum. The project is also supported by Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council.

This project seeks to set out a history of Wiltshire, as told through 100 objects held by museums across the County. There are millions of objects held by museums in Wiltshire so choosing just 100 was a challenge and the final selection can only represent some of the stories from Wiltshire’s past. The objects have been chosen by managers, curators and historians from museums large and small but all of them caring for a part of Wiltshire’s rich heritage.

The 100 Objects are an assorted mix when put together, like a cabinet of curiosities, but each has its own role to play in telling part of the Wiltshire Story. In the 16th century cabinets of curiosities were also known as ‘wonder rooms’; when visiting this exhibition we hope you find the experience like being in a wonder room of Wiltshire!

by Joyce Paesen, Exhibitions Officer


The Tibetan Teapot



Some of you may have noticed that, at least for a few weeks, we have a lovely Tibetan Teapot in the corridor. This object came from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. It was given to Sir Merton Russell-Cotes by the explorer Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Younghusband, who brought it back from Tibet in the early 1900s.

This object is part of a Spotlight loan tour between the Wessex 5 Partners. The Wessex Museums Partnership is a partnership between the five leading museums across the counties of Dorset and Wiltshire: Poole Museum, Dorset County Museum, Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum.

Wessex has a rich history connecting the region to countries around the world. Our links to Europe and Asia date back to prehistory. An eventful maritime history connects our ports to North America and beyond. Local collectors brought back to Wessex exotic treasures from their journeys of discovery around the world. Thus, the story of Wessex is a truly global one.

For the next twelve months these five museums will be sharing the story of Wessex in the wider world by showcasing an artefact from their own outstanding collections to the other partner museums. Currently some pieces of our Wardour hoard are on display in Wiltshire Museum, Devizes.

Through this tour we want to show everyone what a wonderful collection we have and share this with visitors from one of the partner museums.

Touring dates:

1 September – 23 November 2016: Tibetan Teapot from the Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

24 November 2016 – 15 February 2017: Port of Poole Empire Airways Dish from Poole Museums

16 February – 10 May 2017: Iron Leg Shackles and Chain from Dorset County Museum

11 May – 3 August 2017: Woman of Power, Bronze Age Artefacts from Wiltshire Museum

For further information and other events through Wessex Museums Partnership follow us on Facebook and Twitter

by Joyce Paesen, Exhibitions Officer


Wessex Museums Conference


, ,

On Monday 10th October, Salisbury Museum hosted a conference for the Wessex Museums Partnership. Wessex Museums is a partnership between five leading museums across Dorset and Wiltshire; these include the Poole Museum, Dorset County Museum, Russell Cotes Museum & Art Gallery, Wiltshire Museum, and ourselves. Nearly one hundred individuals, from a range of different backgrounds, attended the day-long event. It was brilliant to see so many people present at a conference that was all about working together; particularly in a time where heritage organisations are often struggling for financial support.

The day consisted of several talks from various speakers; Georgia Malin and Gracie Divall discussed partnerships with national museums in relation to the British Museum and Tate, respectively. Stephen Feeke, director of New Art Centre at Roche Court, described their experiences of partnerships with the Arts. Malcolm Burgin and Andy Worth spoke about their involvements community partnerships. The afternoon session comprised a summary of the Wessex Museums Partnership so far by Michael Spender, followed by a workshop break-out session. This session involved splitting into themed groups to discuss opportunities for partnership working. I joined the learning group – which highlighted some very useful points, including working together with universities. The day then concluded with a talk from keynote speaker, Tony Butler, and final thoughts from the day’s discussions.


Gracie Divall speaking about partnerships with Tate (left), and keynote speaker Tony Butler

As someone who is just starting out their museum career, I found the conference very interesting and an incredibly valuable experience. It really emphasised to me the importance of networking and cooperation between different organisations in order to further the aims of individual associations. A personal highlight was Malcolm Burgin’s talk on charity Alive! (one of the leading practitioners in the UK of meaningful activity for older people in care), and how they work together with particular organisations. His words really inspired me to research further into ways to make the arts and heritage more accessible to those living in care. For me, Alive! was a brilliant example of how partnerships really can help engage a wider range of audiences with art and heritage – arguably one of the most important goals for all heritage organisations. It was a really enjoyable and useful day; I greatly look forward to seeing the Wessex Museums Partnership continue to expand in the next few years!



Nicola Trowell (Aspire Trainee)

Working Together


If you were in the Museum on Monday you cannot have failed to have noticed the buzz! The Wessex Museums Partnership, of which The Salisbury Museum is a member, held a Conference at the Museum and about one hundred were welcomed through the doors.

The Wessex Museums Partnership is a thriving partnership of five leading museums across Dorset and Wiltshire. By working together, the museums – Poole,  Dorset County (Dorchester), Russell-Cotes (Burnemouth) and Wiltshire Museum (Devizes), along with Salisbury – can be ambitious in their plans. An early project is the Spotlight Loan Tour whereby each of the museums is lending a key object to each of the other museums in turn. Currently exhibited at Salisbury Museum is the Tibetan Teapot from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth. Still to come, the Bronze Age woman’s burial hoard from Wiltshire Museum, the Poole Pottery Empire Airways Dish, and the Iron Leg Shackles from Dorchester Museum. Each has its own fascinating story.

The Conference has been described as “inspiring” by those who attended (see the tweets and Facebook page!) and this is not surprising when we see who was speaking – Georgia Mallin from the British Museum, Gracie Divall from the Tate, as well as experts from the five Wessex Museums and local interested bodies.

Watch this space!



Looking ahead


Constable Walks

Step into Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831

Blue Badge Guides will lead one and a half – 2 hour walks, starting in front of the Museum, visiting key locations associated with Constable and his paintings of the Cathedral.

Booking advised – Saturdays 22 October, 26 November 2016 and 25 February, 25 March 2017. £6.

CONSTABLE’S PAINTING – a Volunteer’s view


, ,

Have you visited the Constable in Context exhibition yet? The presentation of the ‘centrepiece’ – John Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows is stunning, and the interpretation screen alongside it is such a clever use of modern technology.

Make up your own mind about Contable’s work. The actual painting is far, far better than any of the photographs of it in text and guide books.  It glitters and glows in places, and broods in others. In our Museum you can walk right up to the painting and search every brush mark if  you like, or stand back and admire its sheer size and impact.

I’ve always been a fan, who is not? But the opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this painting, and to see it set against all the others in this superb exhibition has made me re-evaluate, not just Constable’s work, but his place in the story of art in this country. I had a similar reaction to the Turner exhibition last year. There is something about the intimacy of our Museum’s art exhibitions which encourages a closer look.

Some of Turner’s work is here in this exhibition also (how great it is to have another chance to see that) but there are also exquisite pieces by others. Many, being of Salisbury Cathedral, I’ve seen before. But again, I find myself looking at them anew.

And if you are a historian rather than an art buff these paintings tell you so much, and raise so many questions about the story of the cathedral and the city. How it has grown; what was where; what is that…?

Enjoy. Bring your friends. We may not have another chance.

A Volunteer