Liam Story and Maddie Harris were with us at the beginning of April.
We are both history students currently studying at the University of Exeter, both raised in the local area, and still live here when we are not at University. As such, the Salisbury Museum was an obvious choice for us, we both have an interest in local history and knew that this would be the perfect place to further our knowledge and gain some valuable experience in the workings of a museum.
During our placement at the Salisbury Museum, from Monday the 1st of April to Friday the 5th, we took part in a number of different activities. This ranged from cataloguing to behind the scenes tours.
Our week began with an induction tour of the building, learning about the brief history of some of the exhibitions. Later that day, we had a spotlight tour which further sparked our interest in objects within the museum and its displays. For Liam this was the fascinating Drainage Collection, and for Maddie it was the Creative Wiltshire Art Exhibition. The following day, we had a buildings tour which taught us about the extensive history of the building which stretches back to the 13th century, and about the King’s Room. Interestingly, James I of England stayed here on two separate occasions, in 1610 and 1613. This room is now occupied by the Wedgewood Collection. Later the building became a teachers’ training college, and inspired Thomas Hardy, whose sisters attended here. Our final tour came on Thursday which was a behind the scenes tour, and this highlighted the sheer amount of work that goes in to cataloging and preserving Salisbury Museum collections.
We were fortunate enough to assist a number of the hard-working volunteers in cataloguing some of the collections. This started with the ceramics collection on Monday, where we had to measure a magnificent Toby Jug and input this into a system called Modes, which deals with the vast number of objects the museum holds (which is currently over 91,000). On Tuesday, we spent the afternoon wrapping and labelling the Social History Collection, including a World War Two gas mask. Also a particularly fascinating object was a Scold’s Bridle, a crude item used by men to silence their wives. On Wednesday, we helped to photograph and measure some of the wonderful costumes donated to the museum by local people. Finally, on Friday, we were lucky to be able to view the Rex Whistler Archive, one of the largest in England, this ranges from sketchbooks containing small scribbles and architectural drawings to letters and correspondences. The museum displays five of Whistlers original oil paintings, three of which contain Edith Olivier and her Daye House estate in Wilton Park.
We would like to say a massive thank you to the Salisbury Museum, and all its staff and volunteers for welcoming us and giving us this great opportunity. This experience has been unique, and has exceeded our expectations. Not enough credit goes to the staff behind the scenes of museums, and has definitely opened our eyes to the large amount of work that occurs to help with the preservation of the archives, and the research which goes on to put together an exhibition.
By Liam Story, and Maddie Harris
Thank you Liam and Maddie.