Thank you Alan, for piquing our interest yet again…
You will be pleased to hear that it has just been announced that we secured £115,360 from the Museum Association’s Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund to undertake work with young people on our costume collections and displays. This application was put together by Katy England and will obviously be the focus for her work over the next couple of years (from Feb 2018) following up on the excellent HLF Funded City Story Project.
Katy will be working with, amongst others, our NADFAS lady volunteers, on this new project.
See here for more info about the announcement and the other awards made:
I was intrigued to notice that, within Salisbury, there are two prominent artifacts concerning one Andrew Bogle Middleton. The first is a Blue Plaque at the junction of New Canal with High Street (currently the wall of Waterstones) which credits Middleton with having rid the city of cholera in the mid-19th Century (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Blue Plaque commemorating A.B.Middleton
The second is a clock in The Salisbury Museum with the inscription that it was ‘The Gift of A.B.Middleton Esq, A.D. 1860’.
Figure 2. Clock in The Salisbury Museum
An information board adjacent (Figure 3) states that this clock was from the Market House, Salisbury and that not only did A.B. Middleton set up the Salisbury Railway and Market House Company, but he was also associated with the Museum, which was founded in 1860.
Figure 3. Information board accompanying the clock in The Salisbury Museum.
It is difficult to believe that, given the dates, these are not one and the same person.
Given, as stated on the information board, that Middleton was also associated with the Museum when it was founded in 1860 (presumably in connection with the Drainage Collection – the first collection acquired by the Museum), it is surprising that the Museum does not make explicit the connection of this A.B. Middleton with the man responsible for the eradication of cholera within the city, and link it with the Drainage Collection, which is housed in a separate room!
That, therefore, is the purpose of this blog.
Regarding the clock, this once graced the Market House, a building constructed to the west of the Market Place, in the place now occupied by Market Walk and the Public Library. This was the culmination of a need to erect accommodation for the buyers and sellers of agricultural produce. There had been much wrangling over a suitable site for such a building, including sites in and around the present Market Square, considered at the time to be the finest in the West of England.
Eventually the site proposed by A.B. Middleton was agreed upon and the new Market House eventually opened in May 1859.
The great advantage of the location proposed by Middleton was that a railway could be built directly from the Market House to link with the Great Western and South Western lines at Fisherton. Indeed, both narrow gauge and broad gauge lines were laid down to connect with the South Western line, enabling cattle and merchandise to be sent by any of the four railways which served the city.
The clock itself was fixed to the far end of a balcony that ran round three sides of the building. It is 62 inches high and 48 inches wide. The dial is a convex copper sheet secured to a wooden frame. Access to the mechanism is from behind, and thus requires no hole in the face for a winding key.
All but the façade of the Market House was demolished in the late 1970s to build the new Salisbury Public Library.
We will have more next week from Alan Crooks about A B Middleton …
The Lewis Chessmen/ The Easter Island statues
Bridget Telfer, the museum’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, was involved in a knowledge exchange programme with the British Museum. Concluding her fascinating story of her experiences there…
Some amazing facts were given during the tour: I learnt that the Lewis Chessmen had been successfully dated to 1150 due to the bishop’s hat: before 1150 the style of the bishop’s hat would have covered his ears. Also, that there were originally 887 Easter Island sculptures, all made of volcanic rock. However the volcanoes are at either end of the island, and not in the middle where the statues are: the statues would most likely have been moved on wooden rollers – similar to those used to move the sarsen stones at Stonehenge.
One of the British Museum’s handling desks
The other large public programme that the British Museum runs using volunteers is their handling desks. There are seven desks situated in galleries around the museum which are manned by volunteers daily from 11am-4pm. Having trialled this ourselves at Salisbury Museum this summer we know what a wonderful tool it is for engaging the public – and being a smaller more flexible museum, we were able to do it in a different way than they do at the British Museum. Rather than having static desks with a generic handling collection, where each volunteer has access to the same artefacts; at Salisbury Museum we were able to build the programme around the volunteers’ individual interests. So, our volunteers stated their areas of interest or expertise to Adrian, the director, and he was able to select suitable artefacts for them to use. Temporary handling stations were then set up in the relevant area of the museum to the topic they were talking about. However, the British Museum model is impressive – and perhaps a more sustainable and less time intensive (for staff) approach for developing the programme down the line for Salisbury Museum.
Currency to handle on one of the British Museum’s handling desks
I was also impressed by the actual physical desks that the British Museum use for their handling programme. Purpose built (and no doubt pretty expensive) desks with padded tops and lips to stop any artefacts slipping off; pull-out draws within the desks to store the artefacts within; a high security locking system for when the desks are not manned; cupboard doors that open out to form barriers to members of the public – this helps to ensure the safety of the artefacts as visitors can only access them from the front of the desk and the volunteer can stay in control of a group as they cannot swarm behind them; and the desks are accessible for wheelchair users or smaller visitors such as children. Again, the knowledge of the volunteers manning the desks was impressive. I really liked the way the volunteers are trained to begin discussions – using questions or ‘games’ to engage the visitor, rather than facts. So, with the coins pictured above I was immediately invited to pick them up and try and guess which was the oldest object. Facts came later.
The British Museum touch tour
I also enjoyed finding out about the British Museum’s touch tours for visually impaired visitors. With accessibility often being on our minds at Salisbury Museum, and having developed audio described tours for our ‘Constable in Context’ exhibition, it is always interesting to see what other museums offer and what the uptake is. At present the BM’s touch tour is solely around the Egyptian Sculpture gallery – visitors can download the content onto their phones; or do a self-led trail using large print guides; or opt for a volunteer lead tour. Obviously, we don’t have such an array of large scale stone sculptures at Salisbury Museum, that lend themselves to touch and do not easily deteriorate – but it did make me wonder whether we have some more durable artefacts that could go on open display for visitors to touch. Being able to engage more of the senses is not only beneficial to visually impaired visitors, but to all visitors alike – it means you not only visualise the artefact you are learning about, but also feel its texture, material and temperature.
The remainder of the time at the British Museum was spent in useful discussions on subjects such as youth volunteering; volunteer recruitment, selection and training; data protection; other volunteer roles that they have at the museum such as in collections, communities, events and the portable antiquities scheme; and different ways to say thank you to our numerous volunteers. Despite the different volunteering programmes between the two institutions, there were so many overlaps in the work that we do – and finding a way to thank our volunteers for their dedication and hard work was definitely something that both establishments were working hard to achieve. Overall the week at the British Museum was thought provoking; challenging; and hugely rewarding – having this experience will I am sure benefit both Salisbury Museum and my own professional development – and be an experience that will stay with me for a long time.
Francesca Goff, the British Museum’s Volunteer Manager during her week at Salisbury Museum
And of course we have since also hosted Francesca Goff, The British Museum’s Volunteer Manager, for a week at Salisbury Museum. She had an interesting week immersing herself in the life of the museum and got to meet many of our volunteers. More about Francesca’s week soon…..