Another Farewell – to Nicola…

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February 28th marks my last day as Salisbury Museum’s Aspire Trainee – I am not quite sure where the last seven months have gone!

In July 2016, I entered into the role remarkably naïve to the phenomenal hard work put in by all those at the Museum. Since then, I have learned how to produce exhibition and learning content, discovered hugely obscure facts about John Constable, aided in delivering school workshops, given a speech to 30 heritage professionals, produced trails, helped market a major exhibition, shadowed at Tate Britain, helped to construct (and carry!) a LEGO masterpiece – and those were just some of the highlights.

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Having always been fascinated by the role of museums and heritage, particularly at university, I knew that I wanted to work in such an environment. However, after graduating I soon realised the difficulties that young people face gaining experience (especially paid) in these types of roles. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunity by the museum and the Aspire Project to develop the skills needed to propel myself into a heritage career; an experience I will endeavour not to let go to waste. Nevertheless, I am very aware that these opportunities are few and far between, which is why I believe partnerships such as Aspire are so very important to the future of heritage. I would like to give my thanks to all those on the Aspire project for all their hard work.

A massive thank you to all at Salisbury Museum, particularly to those I have worked closely with and who have taught me so much during my traineeship. A special thank you most of all to Joyce (Paeson) – for all the exhibition help and advice, for sharing her office and for constantly providing me with a supply of much-needed support and coffee.

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It has been a pleasure to work alongside all the staff and volunteers at the museum and to be part of such an incredible and worthwhile partnership. I wish the museum and you all a wonderful and prosperous future. I will miss working within this role a great deal (I can’t promise that I won’t pop in to visit every now and again). I will also be leaving my Reception role at the end of April, having spent nearly two years as part of the Visitor Service Team it will be hard to say goodbye!

Now, to put this training to good use and turn my attention to the next adventure….

Best wishes, Nicola

And our best wishes go with you Nicola…

 

The Water Meadows

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After over one hundred Members, volunteers and friends of the museum  attended  a guided walk over the meadows recently, Dr Hadrian Cook – teacher, lecturer, researcher, writer and long-time associate of the Harnham Water Meadows Trust – gave  a fascinating talk on it all at the museum last week.

Again, about a hundred attended, and it was yet another of those wonderful lectures when you knew the speaker could have talked, and the audience happily listened, for hours. The history of the meadows, set against the changing fortunes and requirements of agriculture over the ages, was interesting, of course, but, to those of us with limited background in science, that side of it was a revelation. The late medieval and early modern farmer would not have considered himself a scientist but he obviously knew his land, and nature, and made maximum use of the meadows. Dr Cook explained that, in the end, here in Salisbury, the sheep, grazed on the meadow, were little more than a mechanism for ensuring the arable fields on the sides of the hills were kept manured (see earlier blog for how that worked out). They had long since ceased to be important for their wool, or even of much importance, in the greater scheme of things, for their meat.

It was also interesting to learn a little about the engineering involved in making sure that the flooding of the meadows worked as it was intended to do. It was nothing so simple as just digging a few ditches. The intricate arrangement of leats – top carriers and carriers, all at the right levels – hatches (to control flow) and drains must have been something learned by the locals over time. It had to work properly, or the grass would just rot if left wet. Then there were causeways and sometimes aqueducts to build too!

It was the advent of artificial fertilizers that contributed to the end of water meadows. What have we lost…?

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What an experience it has been…

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Grace Clark has been working with us as a placement student from Bournemouth University

This is my second blog entry from my forty week placement at the museum. I am over halfway through my time here now, and what an experience it has been so far!  Not only have I progressed with my experience, handling and identifying objects, I have also improved my efficiency on photo editing! All of this is down to the fantastic support of the staff and of course the volunteers at the museum. Since my first blog entry I have recorded another 200 finds, making my total over 400, which I am very pleased with. As well as the recording total, I have also edited a total of 432 finds.

Two of my favourite records are these – the horse tether point and the harness pendant:

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Horse tether

Stone horse tethers were commonly used during the 19th century AD and it is thought that they were utilised for a “cock horse”, which is essentially a spare horse for when the terrain got challenging.

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Horse harness pendant (look closely for coat of arms!)

This harness pendant is dated to the medieval period (AD 1300- AD 1400). The coat of arms on the shield may be that of de Clare, Earl of Gloucester..

As well as fulfilling the duties for the PAS, I have also been doing some fascinating work with the development and completion, with Joyce Paeson, of the Rena Gardiner exhibition which recently went on view to the public.  Not only was it a privilege to be part of the construction of an exhibition with the lovely and unique work of Rena Gardiner, it was also a fantastic opportunity to learn various skills.

I only have a couple of months left with the museum. The past five months have gone away so quickly, but I still have time to learn new skills and techniques as well as develop them!

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Opening Up Archaeology…

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Celia Justin, of Henrietta Barnett School, London, was with us recently on work experience. 

As a prospective Archaeology student  with a keen interest in Stonehenge the opportunity to have a work experience placement at Salisbury Museum sounded ideal to discover more about local British archaeology.  This placement has not just been useful in seeing what archaeologists do, with the examples of excavations and the Pitt River collections in the Wessex Gallery, but what archaeologists can do, other than digging! The work of acting Wiltshire Finds Liaisons Officer Fiona (and the volunteers!), who are working with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, illustrated the role of opening up archaeology to everyone. By creating an online database of artefacts discovered around the country, understanding is developed of the varied history of the county around us, as well as informing us of the exciting amounts of discoveries being made all around.

Working with Learning Officer Owain Hughes on the Stone Age handling brought home to me the importance of outreach and engaging children in archaeology and their local history, by encouraging a tactile understanding of history. Unfortunately, I started the day after the Lego version of the Constable painting ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the meadows’ was constructed, which sounded like so much fun, but seeing it next to the original I understood the significance in engaging children with the Lego providing them with a bridge to the actual painting!

The Coo Var wall also (whilst perhaps aimed at kids!) I found to be very engaging and fun. As an art student, this innovative instillation using light and luminescent paint inspired creativity and fun, the act of creating the art deeply reminiscent of cave painting.

Overall, the opportunity to go behind the velvet rope of the museum, behind the closed doors, to see how it is run, gave me an increased respect for the challenges of running a museum in the 21st century. The updating of records to digital and the fundraising required to enhance the viewing and preservation of the artefacts, are some examples of what I took for granted in going to museums and exhibitions but am now acutely aware of.

A massive thank you to all the wonderful staff and volunteers at the museum for always being so kind and helpful in answering my questions, telling the most wonderful stories and in giving me directions! Your hard and passionate work is most definitely appreciated!

Celia Justin

Well! More from Alan Clarke…

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The digitally enhanced image here is from one of Wilfred Chaplin’s glass plate negatives.  Unlike prints, you can’t really write on the back of glass negatives.  There was no index book or any other documentation whatsoever with Wilfred’s collection of glass plate negatives.  However we have managed to identify where most of them were taken, as they are local.  The odd footpath in a wood with a fungal growth on a tree will perhaps remain forever as “unknown location” but at least the fungus is identified!

One image in bright sunlight of the impressive wrought iron gates at the entrance to Wilton house took a visit to confirm.

We were reasonably sure that this well image was local as all the other images were local but no-one could say where it was or had been in the 1950s.  One volunteer spent some time identifying the shield carved on the side; probably from Italy was his conclusion!  Was it a font that had been moved outside or the surrounding church demolished?  The bucket mechanism wasn’t right for a working well.  Simple buckets float on the water surface and do not collect any water.  Then one day I was visiting Heale House gardens in the Woodford valley and there in a field in the distance, the other side of the river was this well-head complete with its ironmongery.  The story is that in the 1900s, when Peto “did’ Heale House garden, he brought this well head back from Venice and made it the centre piece of a large rose garden which required a number of full time gardeners.  The rose garden is now gone and the land is pasture again used for farming sheep.  This well-head now stands incongruously in the middle of a field.  At last Wilfred Chaplin’s image location is identified, and it is local despite what many sceptics had speculated.

Alan is cataloguing our photo archive…

An Update on the Lego

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Wow! It was a truly amazing day at the museum last week.

We had over 705 visitors, picking up 65,280 bits of LEGO and putting them onto 1,020 LEGO tiles. In exactly six hours we made a complete LEGO version of Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. This is now on display in the Main Exhibition Galleries, opposite the real thing. The plan is for the work to stay there until the end of the month, when it will go on display in Salisbury Library.

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Thank you to all involved

Painting by…..

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…numbers? No – these are LEGO bricks! In this, the museum’s second collaboration with the family-owned Danish company LEGO, John Constable’s fabulous painting, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (1831) is coming to life today as a brick by brick construction. This is part of the museum’s Aspire programme of activities ( Aspire is the programme which has brought the painting to Salisbury and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund ) which continue until March when the painting moves on.

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Volunteer Catherine O’Sullivan looks on as the youngsters admire their handiwork!

A lot of Volunteers are assisting with this epic undertaking today. Thank you!

A NEW MUSEUM by Volunteer Ian Dixon and friends

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Kate Wickson and Ian Dixon

Where is this new museum?

  • Over 350 visitors pass through in an hour and a half.
  • Sixty 3D dinosaur reconstructions vie for display space. Do you know your stegosaurus from your triceratops?
  • Visitors investigate Charles Darwin’s theories of the evolution of beaks and the similarities between human and primate behaviours. Do your facial mannerisms resemble those of chimpanzees or orang utans?
  • Art works in clay, pastels, water colour and collage vividly demonstrate the impact of Stonehenge on the artist’s imagination. How would you depict sunrise behind the trilithons?
  • Entry is free and visitors enthusiastically chat with exhibitors and staff about the displays, how they have been curated and their contribution to learning.
  • All this joy of learning without tests!

Guessed it?

This all happened at Wyndham Park Infant School mini-museum – the culmination of an outreach project organised by our Learning Officer Owain Hughes with Sharina Yark, Wyndham Park History co-ordinator.

The idea grew from Owain’s suggestion (to the local primary school history cluster) that we can support schools in delivering their curriculum through visits to Salisbury Museum and outreach work from Owain and his team of volunteers.

In this case, the three Year 1 classes visited the Wessex Gallery and Owain’s workshops and the three Reception classes and three Year 2 classes each received visits and support in school. The climax of the project was the mini-museum. All 270 pupils contributed to a display in their school hall which opened for an afternoon with all classes visiting, as well as families dropping in to enjoy the exhibition of the children’s work.

As well as providing a vehicle for much enjoyable learning in school, the project clearly raised awareness of, and enthusiasm in the community for, our museum and the services it provides.

Thank you, Ian Dixon, Kate Wickson, Sue Bale and Catherine Hazard

Amazing Views In Old Photos

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More fascinating stuff from Alan Clarke and the photographic archive…

Digital resolution!

Much of Salisbury Museum’s image archive consists of film negatives.  For example, the Austin Underwood collection consists of around sixty thousand  2 ¼ inch square individual negatives.  We scan these negatives at 4800 dpi which means they end up as approximately 10,000 by 10,000 pixel jpeg digital images. We have scanned over 6,000 so far.

One such image here shows that Austin had got down onto the railway line.

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The railway is long closed, and the cutting, at this point, filled in.  The road over the railway line, with the bus passing, is the road down to Folly Bottom from Boscombe Down (Grid Reference SU168416).  My wife, Ann, looked at this image on my computer screen and asked if I could zoom in and see where the railway line went.  I promptly did so and to my amazement, Amesbury railway station, with its semaphore signals and platform bridge, came into view.  See second image here.

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You can see that it was definitely downhill from his vantage point to the station.  Austin’s camera and the quality of his film was such that all this detail was captured in the 2 ¼ inch square black and white negative.  If I was to match one pixel of the scanned jpeg image to one pixel of my computer screen, I would need a screen 8 feet square to show the whole image.

It makes me think how many more of Austin’s images have such gems hidden in them, if only I was to zoom in enough or print on a poster 8 feet square.

Spring Clean

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A message from Bridget….Can you help with the Museum’s Spring Clean?

Many of you have helped us out in previous years with our annual ‘Big Clean’ of the museum. It is that time again when we are in need of your help to give the museum an enormous Spring Clean – both the public areas (including the display cases) and behind the scenes.

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Remember this?

Considering the size of the museum this takes a lot of effort and we would really appreciate it if you were able to spare a morning or afternoon to help us out. This is a very important job both to ensure the museum stays looking attractive for visitors and to ensure that we look after the collections and minimise the risk of getting pests in our stores!

We intend to carry out the work every Wednesday in March. Morning sessions will be 10am-12.30pm or 1pm/ and afternoon sessions will be 2pm-4.30pm or 5pm. Please can you let me know if you can do any of the below sessions:

  • Wednesday 1 March AM or PM
  • Wednesday 8 March AM or PM
  • Wednesday 15 March AM or PM
  • Wednesday 22 March AM or PM
  • Wednesday 29 March AM or PM

There will be cake!