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.
We have two students doing their work placements at the museum this week – Victoria and Sarah from South Wilts Grammar School. They are taking over our social media feeds – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to report on all of our events taking place for National Volunteers’ Week. A big thank you to all of our volunteers for all of their hard work and dedication to Salisbury Museum, and to Victoria and Sarah!
Henry was with us recently as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme activities which include a period of volunteering…
As a long-time member of the Young Archaeologists’ Club held at Salisbury Museum and someone with a passionate interest in history and archaeology, it seemed perfect to me that such a brilliant organisation, based so locally, was willing to take me as a volunteer for my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From January to March, I was delighted to assist Engagement Volunteers Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard in their roles in the museum and help Katy England in running the wonderful Young Curators’ Club.
applying for the student placement was a smooth and trouble-free experience,
particularly when aided by the helpful Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridget Telfer,
and something I’d recommend anybody with a bit of spare time and an interest in
history to do. From then on, I had arranged to work alongside Katy, Christine
and Mike for a few hours on Saturdays. Thankfully, on my first day in January I
quickly picked up the induction information and was ready to begin the
Curators’ Club was my first mission. I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed at
10am; eager to help out with whatever tasks would be thrown at me. I was tasked
with some necessary duties for the new year of the club, but soon we ventured
farther into the museum and were allowed entry into the museum’s costume
gallery, where all of the members were so eager to engage in the fascinating
local heritage showcased in the museum. Needless to say, it was an interesting
insight into the running of clubs which spark so much interest in young people,
just as YAC did for me.
role in the student placement was in engagement volunteering; a role I value greatly
from the immense amount I learned during my placement. Not only had I become
familiar with the vast array of incredible exhibits open to the public in the
museum, I also learnt about the role of stewarding at museums and was able to try
my hand at it myself.
Throughout the entire experience, with the help of Christine and Mike, I familiarised myself with all of the collections that a visitor might ask me about when stewarding. As someone currently studying History GCSE and hoping to pursue the subject at A Level and beyond, I could not have asked for a better opportunity, not only to enhance my knowledge of local heritage, but also in skills applicable throughout the entire discipline. Public engagement, spontaneity and retaining information were all skills that I practised and improved during my placement, skills I’m sure will be invaluable for both my further pursuit of history and life in general.
For me, the
absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free
rein in stewarding by Mike: patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any
questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating
and highly enjoyable experience. Secondly, I was allowed by Christine to look
at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on.
Getting a glimpse behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting
for years was a unique experience, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my
life, particularly as I could view such an amazing collection that the Museum
rightfully prides itself on.
incredible opportunity I’d like to thank Bridget Telfer, Katy England,
Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard especially, but also the friendly community
of volunteers working at the Museum who were so encouraging and welcoming. For
this experience I could not be more grateful.
For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike; patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience, and also when I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Seeing behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, particularly whilst seeing such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life.
Henry – thank you for your memories and thoughts, and most of all your help and enthusiasm.
Hannah Grigson, who many of you know (Reception), was recently at Clumber House, Nottinghamshire…
recently spent a week with the National Trust in North Nottinghamshire as part
of the British Museum’s Visitor Service Knowledge Circle, which is a programme
to support professional development for Visitor Service staff across eight
partner organisations. My placement gave me the opportunity to visit two very
different National Trust properties and to learn a lot about the work they do to
maximise their visitor experience.
of my week was spent at Clumber Park which was once the estate of the Dukes of
Newcastle and comprises more than 3,800 acres of parkland, heath and woods. The
stately home was demolished in 1938 but there remains a Gothic-style chapel,
often referred to as a ‘Cathedral in miniature’, beautiful pleasure grounds and
a stunning walled garden. Clumber Park is the most visited pay per head
National Trust property in England and Wales and welcomes over 650,000 visitors
other property in nearby Worksop, Mr Straw’s House, couldn’t be more different
and is described by the Trust as an ”ordinary
home and extraordinary house”. It is a suburban, semi-detached house which
is virtually unchanged since the 1930s and houses a unique collection of
artefacts. The size of the property necessitates booking in advance and
visitors are taken on timed tours with only four people per tour. My visit
offered an insight into the challenges of managing a visitor attraction that
welcomes 10,000 visitors a year but is designed for one family to live in.
placement gave me the opportunity to have many in depth discussions with the
visitor experience teams at both properties – ranging from learning and
outreach, supporter engagement, admissions and membership, volunteering and
community involvement, collections management, the visitor journey, public
programming, marketing and communications and the visitor experience outdoors
including a tour around the Clumber Park estate and a fascinating visit to the
walled garden. I also found out about ‘Clumber Park Revitalised’, which is a
10-year investment programme to improve conservation and the visitor
ended my first day by giving a presentation on the Salisbury Museum and the
work we do highlighting our temporary exhibitions and our ‘talking objects’ programme.
There followed a discussion on exhibition programming and the need sometimes to
be brave and plan exhibitions which attract new audiences. The team were
interested to hear about the success of our Terry Pratchett: His World
exhibition. One of the elements the Trust gather information on is the
emotional impact of their visitors’ experience. I am certain sure our Terry
Pratchett exhibition would have scored highly in terms of ‘emotional impact’
and this is one of the reasons why it was such a success.
discussions about ‘emotional impact’ took place at Mr Straw’s House the
following day. Their score for ‘emotional impact’ in the visitor feedback was
directly affected by the theme of the temporary exhibition. During my visit the
exhibition was focused on the experience of the Straw family’s sons in World
War 1 and this had increased their score from the previous year. One of the
things I found fascinating about the property was the focus on the four individuals,
Mr and Mrs Straw and their two sons, who had lived at the property from 1920 to
when it was taken on by the Trust in 1990. Their story is one that is
manageable in scale and one that many people can relate to – it was both
personal and moving.
an emotional connection through story telling is one of the themes highlighted
in the National Trust’s ‘Inspire to Engage’ programme. The Trust endeavours to
make their visitor experience ‘easy, personal and memorable’ and the aim is
that a visit to one of their properties should be both ‘emotionally rewarding
and intellectually stimulating’. Stories can be used to engage, influence,
teach and inspire – we are 22 times more likely to remember and be emotionally
connected to a story than we are to straight facts. The process is two way – so
visitors should be able to respond to what they have experienced and share
their own stories. Throughout our Terry Pratchett exhibition, I was stuck by how
much our visitors wanted to talk to us about what Sir Terry and his books meant
to them and to share how this had impacted on their own personal stories and
important factor in the ‘Inspire to Engage’ programme is the ‘Peak End Rule’.
The Nobel prize-winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, pointed out that people
could only remember two things from an experience – how we feel at the peak
(regardless of whether the experience proves to be ultimately good or bad) and
how we feel at the end. The peak end feelings summarise our whole experience and
plays a determining factor in what we feel about our visit and whether we will
want to engage with it again. It is therefore extremely important that visitors
end their experience on a high, so they feel connected and wish to return.
discussions with the staff repeatedly demonstrated the importance of emotional
connections in the Trust’s outlook. They are constantly seeking to make
connections and to build relationships with their visitors, volunteers, with
schools and education groups and with the wider community. A feeling of
connectivity is paramount – the aim is to reach out to their visitors and to
the local community and to encourage loyalty, not just to the place but to the
organisation as a whole. This encourages repeat visits and membership which are
vital to the sustainability of the Trust.
talked with the Trust staff about how community engagement had played an
important part in turning a recent negative experience into something positive.
Earlier this year Clumber Park’s Grade II listed ornamental bridge was badly
damaged in an act of vandalism when someone deliberately drove a car into the
250-year old structure. This caused outrage in the local community and many
wanted to get involved to help support the restoration of the bridge. The staff
at Clumber have taken this an opportunity to reach out to the community through
a number of initiatives
and to involve people in recording their memories of the bridge and the part it
has played in their lives – many shared wedding photos taken on the bridge or told
stories of how their child had taken their first steps there.
couldn’t help drawing a parallel with Salisbury’s own recent difficulties
following the tragic ‘novichok’ incident in March 2018 and the devastating impact
this has had on visitor numbers. It
highlights the necessity of forming positive connections with our local
community so that we have a solid base of support – through our membership
scheme but also through community initiatives – to help carry us through difficult times and to make
us financially sustainable and resilient to change.
way this can be achieved is by working with partner organisations. Clumber Park
is situated in an area known as the Dukeries, a reference to the fact that it
was one of five ducal estates in a small area. The Park now works with tour
companies to offer a combined visit to a number of these estates so rather than
seeing the neighbouring attractions as competition, they have found that
working together they are stronger and can give an enhanced offer. This got me
thinking about ways we can form good working partnerships with the other nearby
attractions in the Close to make a stronger offer to our visitors.
my final morning I had the opportunity to find out about Clumber Park’s
marketing and communications and some of their successes. Last summer parch
marks caused by the hot, dry weather revealed the outline of the walls of the
demolished mansion. This really caught the imagination of the visitors and
created a buzz on social media. The BBC’s ‘The One Show’ picked up on the story
and came to film at Clumber which boosted visitor numbers hugely. The Trust
positioned furniture and created a door on the mansion site to bring the
experience alive for their visitors and this proved extremely popular. They
also arranged for an archaeological dig on the site which resulted in the
discovery of a number of interesting finds.
on a good story and bringing it alive for visitors can really capture both the
public and media interest and is a way of reaching out to new audiences. The
placing of furniture and a door on the old mansion site showed me how the Trust
are not afraid of thinking outside the box to engage visitors in innovative
ways. They are in fact actively seeking ways to bring places to life for their
supporters. They are committed to improve what they are doing, and they do this
by identifying what they should stop doing and by doing more of what they do
well. The message I took from my placement was to be bold and brave, and to put
people and their stories at the forefront of what you do as a means of bringing
artefacts and places alive, and by doing so creating memorable experiences and
I came home literally buzzing with ideas and inspiration which I am looking forward to sharing. The collective passion and enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers at the National Trust shone out both at Clumber Park and at Mr Straw’s House. It was fascinating to get an insight into the workings of two such contrasting properties. This comparison coupled with my own experiences at the Salisbury Museum showed me that however different the organisation, the size of the attraction, or whether the primary focus is indoors or out – we all face similar challenges and share a communality of passion and commitment in ensuring our visitors get the best possible experience, whilst securing our heritage for future generations.
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.
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.
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
At the beginning of last month, I spent a week at The British Museum as part of their VS Knowledge Circle programme. Overwhelmed by the success of their previous Knowledge Exchange programme and the number of applicants from Visitor Service staff, Georgia Mallin, programme manager, decided to pilot a new scheme giving VS staff the opportunity to experience life in other museums.
My week began with meeting VS Manger David Owen, who was to be my contact for the week. David took me on an initial tour of the museum, making sure to point out things of particular interest to me, including the oldest wall paintings on display. He talked me through the extraordinary amount of work the VS Team does on a day-to-day basis as we walked through the recently reopened gold-leafed China and South Asia gallery, marveled at the glass ceiling of the Great Court, and discussed dealing with controversy as we stood before the Parthenon Marbles. VS Team Leader Dimitra Kountiou acted as another week-long contact, looking after me incredibly well, allowing me to shadow her as she opened the museum, sharing with me some of the practical concerns and everyday problems the VS staff encounter, and finally accompanying me on a trip to the Wellcome Collection at the end of the week.
Having stated the importance of our
volunteers at Salisbury Museum in my application, I was keen to meet with
Volunteers Manager Francesca Goff, who last year took part in the Knowledge
Exchange, spending a week with us. We spoke of the training volunteers receive,
the object handling ‘Hands On’ desks, highlights tours and an initiative to
encourage young volunteers to build confidence and skills essential for
public-facing roles. Throughout the week I managed to speak with volunteers at
all six ‘Hands On’ desks and attended a number of volunteer-facilitated gallery
talks – I now know an awful lot more about Ancient Maya civilization than I
ever thought I would!
Early in the week I had meetings with Paul Roberts, Ticketing and Information Manager, Natasha Berbank, Private Tours Manager, Claire Byfield, Membership Events Manager and Bryony Smith, Adult Programmes Events Manager. They gave me an insight into how the museum generates revenue through exhibitions, out-of-hours private tours, membership and patronage, and events. The majority of British Museum visitors are one-time visitors, and without a general admissions ticket that means most visitors spend little to nothing during their visit. They are therefore looking at new ways to engage with their audience and begin to draw people back with extra events, lectures, festivals and workshops.
Midweek I had the chance to visit the ‘I am
Ashurbanipal, king of the world, king of Assyria’ exhibition. As a lover of all
things Ancient and Assyrian, the exhibition was one of the main reasons I
applied to the British Museum. I met and spoke with Carine Harmand, Project
Curator, before attending her lecture, giving an overview of the rise and fall
of Ashurbanipal’s Assyrian empire. You can see her below talking through the
beautiful Assyrian reliefs from Ashurbanipal’s palace. The video also shows how
lighting and projection were used in the exhibition to animate the reliefs. I
was absolutely thrilled at the end of the week when David presented me with the
exhibition catalogue as a goodbye present. It is still providing much
Another set of meetings I had were with staff involved in outreach and communication. I met with Emmerline Smyth, Community Partnerships Coordinator and Nicolette Hamilton, from Age Friendly Museums. They both work with encouraging new audiences in to the museum, those who may feel it isn’t a place they would feel comfortable. They shared ideas about initiatives including exhibition previews for community groups, GP-referred friendship groups for older people, appointing ‘Culture Champions’ in the community and making quiet seating and eating spaces available.
I also met with Eleanor Chant and her colleagues from the National Programmes team who organise loans and travelling exhibitions. I had met Eleanor previously when she was involved with bringing Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain to Salisbury Museum late last year. She was interested to hear how the VS staff had found the exhibition and how many visitors we’d had who themselves had discovered hoards. A particularly interesting session was with Rob Florance, Social Media Manager. He greeted me very ominously with ‘Sophia? I’ve seen your tweets…’, before introducing me to colleague Eloise and talking me through their extensive work covering everything from
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and blog posts, to website articles and mail outs.
I was impressed at the planning and forethought, having posts lined up weeks if
not months in advance, and the interactions they have with curators and video
production teams to ensure the highest quality, accurate information. We spoke
about dealing with the negativity often encountered online and ways of dealing
with it. Interesting in light of recent events in Salisbury!
In the next post I
will share tales of my time behind-the-scenes…
What is the connection? They are all favourites of Sophie Hawke, our new Finds Liaison Assistant. Welcome Sophie.
Sophie went on her first dig at the age of eleven (a long time ago she says) and never looked back. From Bradford on Avon, she was one of Mick Aston’s original Certificate in Archaeology students and has since completed a Masters in Landscape Archaeology while bringing up a family. She has come to us via Historic England and a dig at the Roman villa site at Low Ham in Somerset as well as post excavation work at Fort Cumberland in Hampshire.
Sophie is involved with writing up a report on a Roman villa under a playing field at a Bradford on Avon school, researching the manuscripts of Rev John Skinner, Rector of Camerton, Somerset, and is interested in votive objects.
We hope we might hear more from Sophie…. She is with us until May.
You may have read the blog contribution from James Fraser last month (27 November). We are publishing, below, some extracts from his own work diary.
“…today I have met with new people in the museum and I have got to know them and shake their hands and take photos of them in the part where they have been working. I have been independent like an adult…”
“We went to look at things made of clay, like pots and tiles.
I made a clay pot with coils. I went into the library and saw how to move the rolling shelves with a wheel.”
James remarked how he had been confident when meeting people in the staff room.
“We saw Adrian Green, the Director, who was giving out an interview to the BBC.”
A highlight seems to have been the crossbow! “We went to the Social History Store. I looked at a model of Stonehenge, an old clock, old pots…and a crossbow. I chose the crossbow because it needed packing carefully to protect it. I took the crossbow down to the workshop. I used tissue paper and foam and polywrap and I tied it up with tape and included its name and number.”
We have received a lovely letter from the family and include an extract here…
“…the balance between… expectations, and a supportive, encouraging environment was just what he (James) needed to experience for the future. As parents we very much hope that some sort of museum would allow him to volunteer when he is older, and this has been the perfect start for the future.”
I am studying History and Art at school, and I like learning about history from all over the world. I wanted to work in the museum because I have autism and it’s easier to take my time in a museum. It is a peaceful place to work and I can think easier. I love history so I like the museum.
I enjoyed everything about working here – I cleaned the Giant and the chests, I could visit secret rooms in the museum and I met all the staff. I learned to tie knots to wrap up a crossbow and took lots of photos.
My name is Jack Doveton, I am 16 years old and I am starting Sixth Form at Bishop Wordsworth’s School this September. Having finished taking my GCSEs in the middle of last June, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. And in order to put this time to the best use, voluntary work at the Salisbury Museum seemed like a brilliant thing to do. After all, I am studying history at Sixth Form and possibly at university so the museum seemed like a particularly fitting place.
I have lived in Salisbury for most of my life so far, and so I had already been to the museum a few times in the past: in Year 7 for example I visited with my art class from school one afternoon to sketch artefacts. Aside from spending a small period of time as a school librarian, this was to be my very first work experience, so naturally I was excited yet slightly apprehensive before starting.
My placement, albeit short, entailed voluntary work at two of the museum’s key summer events: the Festival of Archaeology and the Discovery Days. So, after a brief visit and a string of emails, I found myself in the midst of the hustle and bustle which was the festival. As I put a bright orange lanyard around my neck, I realised that for the first time, I had responsibility. When the visitors were in doubt about something, they might turn to me, and so I had to act accordingly. Though in spite of being new to voluntary work, both afternoons of the festival turned out to be fantastic. I was very fortunate to be placed helping out with the running of the Lecture Hall, working with a friendly team of volunteers and even being able to watch the fascinating lectures. They’ve given me an unexpected, but nonetheless welcome, understanding of archaeological processes in the context of projects – from the restoration of the Mary Rose to Phil Harding’s excavation at the museum which have illustrated to myself (along with many others) just how interesting a subject it is. However, it wasn’t long until I was walking home on Sunday from the festival, and it felt as though the event had flown by. Soon after I went off on holiday, but when I arrived home it was time to go back for the Discovery Days.
In all, I was only able to help on the last two of the Discovery Days, but these events were, again, a new and enriching experience for me. As a young child, I had participated in many activity days like this, but this was my first experience helping to run such an event. On my first week, the theme was vegetable printing in a style resembling the work of Henry Lamb – but when over 30 children turned up that afternoon, mess was inevitably going to be produced. Despite that, I was once again placed with a friendly group of fellow volunteers and the event was fun to help with. The output of artwork was vast: vegetables of all shapes and sizes (and sometimes hands and feet) were used to make prints in all manners of styles.
In the following week, we were making collage portraits. That week, the emphasis seemed to be more upon quality than quantity, and although the turnout was slightly smaller, the children who were present rose to the challenge and used the watercolours, graphite, paper, pens and pencils to produce masterpieces.
I produced some Henry Lamb-inspired portraits of my own, which I was rather proud of, despite myself being somewhat so terrible at art, particularly drawing faces!
Yet again, I immensely enjoyed helping at an event. This recent work experience has certainly broadened my horizons and I hope to continue to volunteer at the museum: an enriching local institution for everyone.