I’d like to introduce myself – Erica Humbey, keen Classicist with aspirations of a full and colourful future, and I am currently coming to the end of studying in Year 12 at South Wilts Grammar School. Taking exams in Latin, English Literature and Maths and with interests in Music and Ancient Greek, the museum may not seem at first glance the obvious place for me. It has been a week of revelations and endless opportunities!
Hanah (another student) and I worked alongside individual volunteers every day of the week, each of whom have been equally welcoming, generous, patient and interested in our affairs and plans for the future. Doing this has cemented in my mind how utterly invaluable such volunteers are to the existence of the museum. A fitting realisation for National #VolunteersWeek!
Incidentally, we were extremely fortunate to join the museum on this week as we were able to accompany groups of volunteers on a behind-the-scenes insight into many organisations in and around Salisbury: Salisbury Cathedral, Arundells, Mompesson House and Wessex Archaeology.
We were first presented with the ceramics collection and inspected a small number of pieces of commemorative ware. Under the guidance of volunteer Roy Wilde we improved our eye for ceramics and gained a basic understanding of the process of cataloguing. Later in the week a talk from ceramics enthusiast Rosemary Pemerbeton illustrated the breadth and depth of the collection so that we understood the significance of the pieces standing in front of us.
In the afternoon it was our pleasure to be conducted around the museum by volunteer Paul Marsh for a tour in which Paul talked with us about particular features within the museum. One’s visit can be greatly enhanced by singular focus on individual items. It brings to life the stories behind them which roll beyond stagnant objects in a case (although due to expert curatorship Salisbury Museum’s displays are anything but stagnant). We heard about the museum building, the King’s House, the history of which makes it not just enclosing walls but an artefact in itself. We also discussed the tender and charming image of writer Edith Olivier in the selection of Rex Whistler’s paintings facing the windows into the courtyard. Shadowing volunteer Catherine Hazard the following day assured me that any visitor could gain valuable insights from an Engagement Volunteer on their meander around the museum, and feel as personally inspired by the museum as I did.
With volunteer Anne Oaten we spent some time in the costume stores and catalogued a number of items as well as tracked down a set of artefacts which will be on display in an exhibition at Mompesson House next March. These two items, a dress and matching shoes, have a story which I rather like and I look forward to seeing the fully formed exhibition next year. As well as giving us the opportunity to help her with cataloguing Anne encouraged us to spend time in the costume store rooms which are filled to bursting with rails of hanging garments: an unparalleled opportunity! We satisfied our eyes with ornate fabrics, working smocks and wedding dresses as well as children’s wax dolls and a set of old Bishops Wordsworth’s school uniform which was a particular surprise as the school is so familiar to me!
More from Erica next time…..