On Monday, 5th December, Salisbury Museum staff and volunteers manned the Charities’ Chalet at the Salisbury Christmas Market. The centrepiece was, of course, Constable’s ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’ – but seasonably adapted by Christopher Tunnard with Father Christmas and his herd of reindeer flying in the sky above the Cathedral spire. Would Constable have approved? Well, ‘By George’, it certainly made for an eye-catching and witty picture!
Staff and volunteers spent the day promoting the Christmas activities as well as the numerous other events and exhibitions presented by the museum; there were also museum shop items for sale. Over the day, staff and volunteers engaged with 169 people and handed out museum leaflets to many other members of the public. I was on the evening shift which was quiet and slightly chilly (thank you Joyce for the hot chocolate, that kept me going!) but even then we got to talk about the museum to locals and visitors alike. One lady I spoke to was going to place the leaflet about the Christmas activities on her notice board at work.
As a way of engaging with the local community and visitors, the Christmas market pitch seemed to work well, getting information about Salisbury Museum to people who probably would not otherwise have picked up a leaflet or thought to visit. After all, how many people expect live reindeer at the same venue as Constable’s ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’? This is what I love about Salisbury Museum, a huge range of activities and exhibitions to cater for all ages and interests.
Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes. That’s what I like about it. One day you are cataloging keys from the Drainage Collection, another day you are putting up a gazebo for the Festival of Archeology weekend, or balancing precariously on top of a ladder with a dripping roller brush of grey paint as you transform a gallery into a new exhibition space. So when it’s Christmas – think “Santa and his reindeer”! That’s why I was to be found, late one Monday afternoon in early December, manning the fort – or rather the chalet – at the Salisbury Christmas Market and telling everyone who passed that the following Saturday the Museum was host to not only Santa but also “real reindeer”.
The Christmas Market makes one of the chalets available for local charities to advertise and to sell their wares. Monday was the museum’s slot. For our day, what else could we do but put up a large reproduction of our Constable painting – complete with Santa and his sleigh galloping along that rainbow. We handed out leaflets about the museum generally and especially about the Constable exhibition – and, of course, about our family fun day the following Saturday, enticing passers-by with promises of “real reindeer”. Naturally we targeted families with younger children for that one. However, we were also able to engage people about the museum more generally. One American couple over here on holiday seemed very tempted to visit the museum once we had extolled its virtues and we also got a few takers for some of the lectures in the new year. Even if, to be honest, the bratwurst and gluhwein on the adjacent stall were perhaps a slightly bigger draw, we were still able to spread the word a little bit and who knows, maybe some of those who passed by and took our leaflets might be tempted to come along to the museum as a result of our efforts.
It was fun – if a little cold. The buzz of the market, the slightly hackneyed Christmas music (I have to admit I did find myself joining in and dancing along at some points), the whole Christmas atmosphere….. what’s not to like!