Rachel Herring,  a Year Twelve student studying, History, German, English Literature and Philosophy at South Wilts Grammar school in Salisbury, has now completed a second stay with us.  In this photo we can see her at the History Through the Eye of a Needle temporary exhibition in the Wessex Gallery. Notice, behind Rachel, the little creature which seems to have ‘photo-bombed’ proceedings! If you don’t know who it is, come and enjoy the exhibition, which is a fascinating ‘take’ on history, presented through a variety of forms of needlework, mostly based on items from our Salisbury Gallery.

Thank you Rachel, for all your help. Best wishes for the future…

On 25th July I returned to the museum to complete my five-day work placement, which I had started over Easter with the Glow Wall event. This time I was helping out at the ‘Companions of the Long Bow’ archery event where, under clear blue skies, families could try their hand at this ancient weapon and find out about armour and strategy at battles such as Agincourt. As an A Level history student I was intrigued to learn more from the archers, who, amongst other things participate in the huge medieval re-enactment at Tewkesbury. Both I and the public were fascinated by their expertise; for example, demonstrations using wooden pikes which were sharpened and hammered into the ground as protection for Henry V’s armies explained why archers carried mallets. It was also revealed that an old act of courtesy, whereby knights would raise their visor to see their opponent’s eyes before combat, had in fact evolved into the modern day gesture of the salute.

This event wasn’t the only opportunity I had to expand my knowledge of history during my placement at the museum. The next morning I was asked to do some research and write a text to accompany the display of Great Bustards in the museum entrance, which were killed in the late 1800s and were some of the last of their species to be sighted in Britain. During my research I not only read about the heritage of the birds (which are the heaviest flying birds in the world and have a wingspan of up to 8 feet), but about the work of the Great Bustard Group, which is the organisation responsible for reintroducing the birds to Britain using eggs from Russia and Spain. After their effective extinction in the 19th century due to two centuries of hunting and industrialisation, the Great Bustard population in Britain has now been reviving since 2004.

In the afternoon I was lucky enough to have a detailed tour of the museum; despite living in Salisbury, I have to admit I had not visited the museum as a visitor for several years! I particularly enjoyed visiting the Wessex gallery, which triggered some interesting conversations with the guides there about the limits of archaeology and the assumptions we often make as historians. It was also refreshing to consider some more local and personal forms of history, which made a contrast to the scale of history studied in school.

On my third and final day at the museum, I helped out at a Young Carers art event run by the learning department. This was a truly enjoyable and thought-provoking experience, as I realised the enthusiasm which art and history can create, and the importance of making heritage accessible and engaging to all age groups. Through talking to some of the children about the displays they were drawing, I had an insight into their interpretations of what they saw, and what they had taken away from visiting the museum.

All that remains is to thank the staff who helped to organise my placement, the volunteers who I worked with and those in charge of the activities I contributed to. The level of variety which I experienced during my placement opened my eyes to the breadth and depth of what the museum offers, and I now have a much greater appreciation of what those who work there contribute to the Salisbury community and beyond.