We are Victoria and Sarah from South Wilts Grammar School, on student placement at Salisbury Museum. We were looking around the museum and found the works by Peter Thursby particularly compelling. We therefore decided to research him and comment a little on his work. We hope that you find our interpretation interesting, even if you do not agree with it.
Thursby was born in Salisbury on the 23 December 1930 and was educated at Bishops Wordsworth School. Although possibly unrelated to his artwork, it is interesting to know that Thursby’s English teacher was William Goulding, who, as we are sure you know, is the author of Lord of the Flies. Thursby completed his national service in the Army, which may well have had an influence (conscious or otherwise) on his later artwork. He studied art at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham and the West of England and Exeter Colleges of Art and then became an art teacher.
Thursby’s main focus was sculpture, with his symbolic and abstract style, it is no surprise that he gained his main success in the 1960s after friendships with others who would invite him to galleries, and initially it was the attentions of influential gallery owner Marjorie Parr. As he gained a reputation, he began to be commissioned for both public and private works e.g. an important public commission for Devon county council for the tall sculpture Vertical Winged Form for a new school at Plymstock as well as a corporate piece with engineering imagery.
Our favourite sculpture in the museum is called Rising Optimism, which was created in 2001. Made out of stainless steel, the piece is strikingly aesthetic with a smooth and shiny appearance. We were intrigued by the recurring idea of optimism in Thursby’s work, and although we do not know, for us we imagine that his experience in the Army would have called for much need for optimism in his life, and these sculptures may, in a way, be a sort of reflection on his time in the Army. We also think that as a school teacher he would have experienced optimism in a different way, and, for us, the way that the sculpture widens as in goes up and splits in to two, almost in a tree-like way, can show growing and reaching for more, an idea often encouraged by teachers to the students. This is all only our personal interpretation of the work, so please don’t quote us. We also appreciated his sketches regarding his sculptures, in particular ‘Expanding Form Optimism’ which adds colour to a similar idea. We like the shade of blue, as although blue is typically associated with sadness, there is a certain hope to the sketch, particularly with the addition of the gentle background yellow. This perhaps suggests that there is always cause to be optimistic, even in the saddest of times. Overall, we have interpreted Thursby’s artwork is an inspiring and uplifting way, whilst not ignoring any potential sorrow in each of our lives.
Stonehenge artefacts, many of which have never previously left these shores, and many of which are usually in the care of The Salisbury Museum, are now in the USA, on tour. The Union Station exhibition is the first of a number of exhibitions taking place there in the coming months, with possibly more to follow. It opened on Friday 25 May to great fanfare and our own Adrian Green was there, at the invitation of the organisers. He flew back on Sunday, a journey that took twelve hours, and was back at work on Monday.
‘The Origins of Photography in Salisbury, 1839-1913’
exhibition reminded me of a box of 22 glass lantern slides I had stowed away,
given to me by a former rector of St Paul’s Church, probably in the late 1960s.
A lantern slide is a glass transparency that is viewed using a slide
projector that casts an image onto a wall or other suitable surface. The light
source evolved over time from oil lamps through limelight, carbon arc lamps,
and finally electric light. Prior to the invention of photography, painted
images on glass were projected for entertainment.
The photographic lantern slide was invented during the 1840s by the
Philadelphian daguerreotypists, William and Frederick Langenheim, when they first used a glass plate negative to print
onto another sheet of glass, thus creating a transparent positive image that
could be projected. These were used well into the 20th century for displaying photographic
images for entertainment and educational purposes. They could be mass-produced
and were thus easily available and affordable.
Lantern slides were created by placing a dry plate negative directly onto
light-sensitive glass, which was dried, fitted with a cover glass and sealed
with tape. Sometimes a black and white photographic image was hand-coloured
with special inks before covering.
Among my lantern slides were seven of astronomical interest: two of the full Moon, taken at the Lick Observatory1, four of comets taken in 1906 and 1908 and one of the 1889 solar eclipse. The latter was labelled ‘R.A.S. No. 1. 1889 solar eclipse. Pickering’ (Fig 1) and was accompanied by a snippet from ‘The Observatory’, “provided by the NASA Astrophysics Data System”.
Part of the magazine snippet read,
“American astronomers are to be cordially
congratulated on the brilliant success which has attended their efforts to make
the most of the late eclipse. It was not a favourable eclipse in many ways; the
duration of totality was short, and winter is not the best time for
observations; indeed some of the intending observers found it too cold to make
the drawings they wished. But the central line was more readily reached than
usual; indeed, though no fixed observatory was actually on the line, several
were within a comparatively easy distance of it, and the partial phase was
visible both at Lick1 and
Washington. It is satisfactory to find that the advantages thus offered for
bringing to bear larger telescopes than those which have hitherto been
selected, on the score of portability, were fully recognised; and for the first
time we find a 13-in. telescope used to photograph the corona., Mr W.H.
Pickering having taken from Harvard the instrument provided by the Boyden Fund”.
This eclipse was visible across western United States, and central Canada. Partiality was visible
across the northern Pacific Ocean including Hawaii,
and all of the United States.
William Henry Pickering (Fig.2) was the younger brother of the distinguished astrophysicist E.C. Pickering, and was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 15 February 1858. He was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his brother had been professor of physics; and both were associated with Harvard University virtually their entire professional lives. Thus both were later directors of Harvard Observatory facilities; Edward serving as the Director of the principle observatory for over four decades and William serving as the director of several Harvard substation observatories; one in Jamaica, another near Mt. Wilson and another, Boyden Station in Peru. William was appointed an assistant professor at Harvard observatory in 1887 and set up Harvard’s Boyden Station at Arequipa, Peru in 1891. Around 1900 he led expeditions to Jamaica, and from 1911 he was in charge of a permanent Harvard observing station there. On retiring in 1924 the Jamaica station became Pickering’s private observatory.
William Pickering was a pioneer in dry-plate celestial photography, and the Harvard photographic sky survey was undertaken at his suggestion. He also made extensive visual observations of the planets and their satellites and in 1888 he produced some of the earliest photographs of Mars, using blue-sensitive plates and the 13-inch Boyden refractor telescope2 (Fig 3).
He reported “oases” on Mars (1892), and claimed short rotation periods (now
known to be incorrect) for Jupiter’s Galilean satellites.
In 1899 Pickering,
in a search for possible new satellites of Saturn, had photographic plates
taken, on which he discovered Phoebe, and demonstrated that it has a retrograde
orbit. Saturn was the first planet known to possess both direct and retrograde
From 1907 Pickering
paid considerable attention to predicting the location of trans-Neptunian
planets; and after Pluto was discovered, faint images of it were located on
plates taken for him in 1919. Although Percival Lowell is generally accorded
greater credit for this discovery, Pickering’s
observation was quite independent and more accurate in many respects.In 1924, Pickering
came up with a seemingly bizarre and ridiculous idea. He had recorded apparent changes in the
albedo of the lunar surface, which he attributed to hoarfrost and vegetation,
and suggested that changing shadows on
the floor of the crater, Eratosthenes could be swarms of insects or herds of
small animals. These ideas, however, are perhaps not quite so fantastic as they
first appear; one should recall that as recently as the 1960’s the possibility
of lunar life forms was taken sufficiently seriously to require the first
Apollo crews returning from the Moon to undergo extensive decontamination and quarantine protocols. Peter
Ryan in his book, ‘The Invasion of the Moon 1957-70’ (Penguin, 1969) wrote:
decimation of many primitive or isolated earth communities upon first contact
with diseases common to the ‘civilised’ world, NASA had been under pressure
from many scientists to take steps to prevent a repetition in the space
I have donated this whole set of lantern slides to the
Museum and Volunteer Alan Clarke has informed the Director, Adrian Green, that
these slides, together with two other sets of lantern slides, constitute a collection of
Lick Observatory. Lick Observatory is the world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top astronomical observatory, owned and operated by the University of California. It is situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, near San Jose, California.
Boyden 13-inch refractor telescope. This was constructed in 1888 by Alvan Clark & Sons for Harvard College Observatory. In 1889 it was relocated to Mount Wilson Observatory in California. During its time at Harvard and Mt. Wilson, Pickering used it to take some of the earliest photographs of Mars, and the following year it was moved again to Harvard’s southern station at Arequipa in Peru.
Thursday 25 April at 2.30pm, and Tuesday 30 April at 10.30am:
Adrian Green will be giving briefings on the forthcoming Augustus John exhibition: ‘Augustus John: Drawn from Life’.
is no need to RSVP for this event.
Tuesday 7 May: Volunteer Workshop – Make a ‘Rupert’ Parachutist
Join us in
making mini ‘Rupert’ parachutists to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
Nicknamed ‘Rupert’s’, these decoy parachutists were made of sack cloth filled
with sand, straw or wood shavings. They were parachuted over enemy territory to
create the false impression of a very large invasion force. On 6 June 1944
aircraft dropped 500 Rupert’s along the French coast to divert German troops
away from the actual zones. The
mini ‘Rupert’s’ will go on display in the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum
in June 2019. At the workshop there will also be a selection of handling items
relating to D-Day, including a replica ‘Rupert’ parachutist. No sewing
book a place on the workshop please email me or call 01722 332151.
Thursday 9 May and Tuesday 14 May: Volunteer Coffee Mornings
along to meet other volunteers and have tea, coffee and cake with us! The
Learning Project Officer and two volunteers will be giving a talk
entitled: ‘Look Again: Discovering Centuries of Fashion’. Hear
about this exciting costume project working with youth groups and Art Society
volunteers. See some of the gems buried in our costume store! The project will
result in a re-designed costume gallery at the museum – come along to find out
There is no
need to RSVP for this event.
Monday 20 May at 11am-12pm, and Thursday 23 May 10am-11am:
Dementia Friends Information Sessions
Gregson, the new Community Curator for Salisbury Museum, will be running these
Dementia Friends Information Sessions as part of National Dementia Action Week
(21-26 May 2019). Later this year we will be starting to run a monthly memory
group at the museum for people living with Dementia and their carers. This
means that we will see more people with Dementia coming to the museum. We would
like staff and volunteers to be confident in engaging with people with Dementia
and their carers. These information sessions are run by volunteer Dementia
Friends Champions, who are trained and supported by Alzheimer’s Society. During
the session you will learn more about dementia and how you can help to create
dementia friendly communities. If you can’t make either of these sessions we
will be running more of these training events in the future on different days
book a place on the workshop please email me or call 01722 332151.
Last week, Volunteer Christine Mason wrote for us about the remarkable story of her involvement with the museum’s Rex Whistler archive. Thanks to this talented lady, some of the Whistler story is spreading far and wide…
Nothing of what happened throughout 2018 in preparation for the show would have been possible without the help, enthusiasm and encouragement of Louise Tunnard, and it was a gamble for her, as if the event wasn’t a success the museum stood to lose money.
that there should be two readers, male and female, and I was very fortunate
that two professional actor friends, Jill Fenner and Edward Halsted, expressed
interest, so it was up to me to produce a script that would appeal to them. I
started, naturally, by reading every item in the correspondence section of the
archive, approximately 700 items, but of those 700, although some were just a single
sheet, others were six or more pages long.
I selected about 59 possibilities to work on. In the case of transcripts I could photocopy
them to take home, but for the originals the photographs on Modes had to be
retrieved, and here I was greatly indebted to volunteer David Balston for doing
that. Bearing in mind always that the
performance had to be strictly of an hour’s duration was a good discipline when
it came to editing the letters. The
first lines to go were the apologies that began almost every letter. I have said that Whistler was a reluctant
letter writer, and his correspondents always had to wait a long time for
replies, even when commissions were being offered. Repetition, references to people or events
unknown today also disappeared. Finally
27 letters and one envelope made up the script.
Once the shape was in place I had to provide a linking narrative, and
decide on the division of the letters between the readers, which was roughly
that the female would read letters addressed to women and the male those to
men, but this was not strictly adhered to.
The title, ‘Darling Edith and others’ was arrived at by Louise and me
over a lunchtime sandwich, and she designed the attractive poster advertising the
event. So with the script done, and
timed with helpful friends reading aloud with me, copies were sent to the
actors, who fortunately were both enthusiastic about it.
the script was completed, I was stewarding in the Henry Lamb exhibition, and
one of the visitors was Katherine Olivier, the great-niece of the Darling Edith
of the title. We talked, and she said
she lived in America so would not be able to come to the performance, but at
her request I sent her a copy of the script, which she reviewed very kindly and
script completed and accepted, I then had to think about the staging, bearing
in mind the limitations of the Lecture Hall as a performance venue, with its
very low stage making for difficult sightlines, and the lack of effective
lighting. Any staging, however minimal,
is a costly business. Both actors had
offered to waive their fees, but this could not be allowed. Louise negotiated with Edward’s agent, and
Jill’s costs and other expenses were sponsored.
These included a dress being made to a 1930s pattern for Jill, and a
donation to Salisbury Playhouse for the loan of furnishings, for which they
generously had made no charge, and had given me a freehand to pick anything I
wanted even including a vase of artificial flowers from the theatre’s
foyer. Other items to dress the set and
genuine 1930s jewellery were scrounged from friends. A superb copy of the self-portrait held by
the museum was made, and two personal items from the archive also helped dress
the set, Whistler’s Welsh Guard’s cap and the drinks flask he carried.
months before the date of the show, Jill and Edward came to Salisbury for a
rehearsal one Saturday when the Lecture Hall was not in use. This was our only rehearsal before the actual
day, and all other notes and directions were conducted by e-mail between the
three of us, but I could not have wished for more co-operative and amenable
morning of 7th December we were to rehearse and set the stage, so it
was disconcerting to arrive and find a decorated, artificial Christmas tree on
the acting area and the hall bedecked with totally inappropriate bunting. Fortunately, Jill’s partner who worked for years
backstage at the Coliseum for English National Opera, removed the bunting with
Wagnerian thoroughness, but his fight with the Christmas tree was more in the
style of opera comique, and apologies
if the tree was never the same again.
To our great
relief the evening was completely sold out, and the performance went
smoothly. It had to end with a
black-out, which was difficult to do, so I hid on stage behind a screen before
the audience arrived, and Louise joined me after her introduction. We had to have four hands on four switches to
achieve the black-out, and we had been unable to synchronise this at the afternoon’s
rehearsal, but by a miracle we managed it when it mattered.
It is very
gratifying, that after so many months’ work by everyone involved, ‘Darling
Edith and Others’ will be seen again.
Lewes Little Theatre, Sussex, with a suitable donation to the museum,
has programmed it into their next season as a Sunday afternoon foyer
performance on 31st May 2020, so if you missed it in Salisbury. . .
The artist Rex Whistler, 1905-1944, is less well known than his contemporary Eric Ravilious, 1903-1942. One only has to look at the greetings cards in the museum shop to realise that. Both were killed in World War II, both at the age of 39, and at the height of their powers with so much more to give. Salisbury Museum is in a unique position to promote Rex Whistler’s work to a wider audience.
been retrospective exhibitions of Whistler, notably the Army Museum 1994,
Brighton Art Gallery 2006 and Salisbury Museum 2013. Whistler’s younger brother, Laurence, amassed
a huge archive of everything and anything connected with his sibling, and this
remained with the family after Laurence’s own death, and was purchased by the
museum after the 2013 exhibition. It is
the most appropriate home for it, as a few years before his death Whistler had
taken a lease on 69 The Close, a near neighbour of the museum.
volunteer steward at the 2013 exhibition, I was invited to an evening’s viewing
of part of the archive soon after its arrival.
This was heaped on the tables in the Meetings Room, and it was almost
impossible to pick out what to look at first, and the Director assured us it
was only a small sample of the whole collection, which had never been fully
catalogued. In the five years since
then, and most importantly, almost everything has been stored in protective
sleeves where necessary, and proper storage boxes. Where Laurence had put items into manila
envelopes or similar, the contents have been removed, and the envelopes kept
and added to the records, as they often provide clues on what they previously
held. The cataloguing continues, and the
collection has been photographed. As the
cataloguing records are completed in longhand in pencil, the details are then
transferred to Modes.
The cost of
holding the archive did not stop with its purchase. The materials for its protection are
expensive, and some of the original works of art are in need of conservation,
having been kept in unsuitable conditions or folded when they should have been
is, of course, available to bona fide
researchers, and the Talking Objects scheme adopted by the museum during summer
months, has given a wider public a taste of Whistler’s enormous talent in
portraiture, mural painting, book illustration, film and theatre design,
advertising, etc., etc. This small
selection also includes photographs and some of his correspondence, he being a
reluctant but skilled letter writer, even though his spelling was always
was asked to give an illustrated talk to fellow volunteers, which I did. Subsequently I took this talk to an outside
group, and a generous cheque was sent by them to the museum, and further
bookings are in the pipeline with the possibility of more fees for the museum.
This gave me the idea of using the archive as performance matter, rather than lecture material, and early in 2018 it was agreed that something along those lines could be programmed into the museum’s events calendar. I was given the date of 7th December to work towards, and I decided to base the evening on the correspondence tracing Whistler’s life from a 12 year old boy just starting at boarding school, through his work and the high society life of the 20s and 30s to his army service with the Welsh Guards from 1940 until his death in 1944.
This fascinating account of a Volunteer’s interest becoming a public performance is continued next week… Thank you Christine!
The first exhibits to capture my attention when ‘The Origins of Photography in Salisbury, 1839-1913’ exhibition opened at Salisbury Museum in January were the stereophotographs and viewers (Fig 1).
This was because I was reminded of my own Vistascreen stereoviewer and stereocards, obtained free with Weetabix breakfast cereal during the 1960s (Fig 2).
Vistascreen was a system for viewing photographs or illustrations in 3D, which superseded and was similar in concept to the earlier Stereoview . The Vistascreen Co Ltd was formed in the UK in 1955. Although a competing View-Master system was already available at this time, the content of most of their ‘reels’ was of limited interest in the UK. View-Master ‘reels’ are thin cardboard discs containing seven pairs of small, transparent colour photographs on film, which were manufactured and sold by Sawyer’s (Fig 3). The components of each pair are viewed simultaneously, one by each eye, thus simulating binocular depth perception.
In Vistascreen, each card consists of two images,
side-by-side, and taken from slightly different angle so that, when viewed
together through a special viewer, a single stereoscopic image is produced. The
Vistascreen stereoscope is a ‘lens stereoscope’ which consists of two
simple magnifying lenses mounted with a
separation equal to the average interpupillary distance of the human eyes (6.5
Most of the original sets of black and white
Vistascreen photographs were taken by ex-RAF photographer Stanley Long using a 1920s Rollei
Heidoscope stereo camera with a plate back. Picture cards were supplied in
packs of 10 cards, and eventually almost 300 Vistascreen sets were produced. Most
Vistascreen cards were sold as souvenirs at UK tourist attractions, but a small
number of glamour photos were also available by mail order.
The original Vistascreen viewers were manufactured
in ivory coloured plastic, with plastic lenses, and were designed to fold flat.
The Weetabix cereal company bought out Vistascreen
in the 1960s, whereupon the viewers had the Weetabix logo embossed in gold on
the viewer’s reverse (Fig 4).
Single cards were given away with Weetabix cereal in a promotion which lasted for several years and which featured six different sets of 25 cards; Working Dogs, Thrills, British Cars, British Birds, Animals and Our Pets. Viewers could be purchased by mail order directly from the Weetabix factory. The cards given away by Weetabix were of poorer quality than the original Vistascreen picture cards, which had a glossy, photographic finish.
I was interested to note
that, recently (February 2018) a Weetabix 3D Vistascreen Viewer with 125 Stereo
Cards was put up for sale on ebay for over £40 – including postage and packing.
In researching this article, I was interested to learn that Queen guitarist, Brian May, who has a pHD in Astrophysics from Imperial College, London, also has a long-standing interest in stereophotography, dating from the time when he himself collected Weetabix VistaScreen cards as a child. In an interview for the Daily Telegraph1 he commented, “I found it magical. I was in my own world with a stereoscope. It’s like having earphones on – you’re completely in contact with your subject matter.”
From collecting stereo cards May graduated into
making his own, commenting, “I had an
appetite for that stuff; so I took my two and sixpenny Woolworth’s camera and
took two pictures of my bike. I stuck them on cardboard and put them in the
Weetabix viewer and it worked.”
Stereoscopy works by replicating human vision
using the phenomenon of parallax; the right eye sees a slightly different image
to the left eye, but the brain fuses these together and constructs a 3D image.
If one covers one eye, one will apparently still see in 3D, but this is, in
fact, largely an illusion as the brain has adapted to use other depth cues such
as shadows. If one closes off one eye,
the loss of perspective does, however, render the judging of distance to be
Stereography began to make an impact during the
early 1850s, being demonstrated at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace. During Victorian times stereography
was a very accessible and popular form of entertainment; most middle-class homes
would have had a stereo viewer and a stack of cards. It was also possible to
hire a viewer for an evening, and to borrow cards from a library. The less
affluent could see them at fairs whilst, at the other end of the social spectrum,
Queen Victoria herself had several hundred cards. At the height of its
popularity in the 1860s, thousands of stereo cards were produced and sold from
the Oxford Street
premises of the London Stereoscopic Company (LSC) which had a Royal Warrant. The
majority of cards depicted built or natural wonders, such the pyramids,
glaciers and the Crumlin Viaduct in Wales – but the market for
sentimental tableaux and supernatural scenes was also large.
The London Stereoscopic Company was dissolved in
1922 but, in 2008, Brian May, together with a fellow enthusiast and
photo-historian, Denis Pellerin, resurrected the company and hope one day to
publish stereo cards again. Meanwhile, Pellerin is cataloguing and researching May’s
collection, which is one of the biggest in Britain .
We have a temporary exhibition in the Wessex Gallery, celebrating the work of young people who have been part of the City Story: Historic Past, Creative Future Project, funded by an HLF grant.
Led by Salisbury Museum’s Katy England and supported by local artists, forty young carers aged between ten and thirteen years were working in the Museum on Saturday mornings, exploring objects in the museum and responding in a variety of art and craft techniques.
I began 2019 by installing the Creative Wiltshire: A
Celebration of Art exhibition at Salisbury museum. As the pictures below will
show it was a very transformative experience. We began work on the Sunday,
making the most of the time when the museum was shut to the public. Firstly, we
took down all of the portraits which had been on display, and then with quite a
few helping hands we set about painting the space.
The painting for this exhibition was one of the crucial elements. This is because I chose to paint two brightly coloured feature walls, one in pink and the other in a deep teal. As the exhibition is about celebrating creativity in Wiltshire I wanted to show that museums can be creative too. I also thought it would be a great way of exciting interest in, and conversation about, the exhibition.
The painting took a few days but after some finishing touches we were ready to install the art. We began by hanging the paintings and photographic pieces on the walls. As we had quite a lot of pieces to hang, some of which were very large, this took two days and more helping hands to complete. By this point the space was beginning to come together. We then installed the objects, mostly ceramic and sculpture, which with a little bit of moving around, fitted into the space very well. I was then able to install the colour co-ordinated captions. Finally, the two wall panels were added, completing the space and look of the exhibition.
Overall, I am really pleased with how the exhibition has turned out. I think it highlights how versatile the space can be and shows you do not need to shy away from using bright colours, as when used correctly they can be effective. I hope the exhibition shows visitors the great creativity Wiltshire has to offer.
officially opens on Saturday 19 January and runs until 4 May 2019.