Exhibition Briefings with the Director, Adrian Green, for the Henry Lamb: Out of the Shadows Exhibition will take place on:
Tuesday 1 May at 10.30am and
Thursday 3 May at 2.30pm
in the Lecture Hall. No need to book.
April is here and the Big Clean is over for another year. Katherine Searle-Barnes (left – on student placement) and Heather Balston (right – a Volunteer usually seen behind a computer) add final polish in the Costume Gallery.
Perhaps we should have a captions competition for some of these photos? Allow your cursor to linger over these (above) and see what captions we did choose here…
March 19th in the Close and March 26th on Harnham Bridge
Meanwhile, back in the museum…
This year’s Big Clean is now almost complete. Nearly fifty Volunteers, and most of the staff, have been involved, in dusting everything from crossbows to medicine bottles, teapots to window sills.
Above, we have Mary Crane and Jennie Hoare in the surgery, and Jane Howells and Ruth Newman in the ceramics gallery. Thank you everyone.
… a comment received this week in response to Alan Clarke’s first article on the Stonehenge Woollen Industries, and echoed by many of us I’m sure. We like to have comments, and please keep them coming, though we cannot publish them all of course!
We have well over two hundred Volunteers ‘signed up’ at the museum, many are ‘regulars’ and have come from fascinating backgrounds and continue wonderful, sometimes surprising, work here. A number have now provided talks at Volunteer gatherings. Please consider sending in an item for the blog – local history, something interesting from your past, something about your work at the museum…
The blog has hundreds of views a week and needs you to keep it going!
An unusual sight in the Ceramics Gallery…
Volunteers Roy Wilde and Rachel Pooler were to be found in the Ceramics Gallery this week, apparently deep in their studies!
It transpired that they are involved in a complete re-cataloguing of the collection. Lucky people! Each beautiful item was being carefully removed from display, checked against existing lists, documents amended as necessary, the item then returned to display.
How lucky we Volunteers are to be able to get these kinds of opportunities …
OR The Last of the Box Makers by Volunteer Mary Crane
Everyone who worked on the Pitt-Rivers collection (and probably anyone who has attended a coffee morning) will know that some larger museum items, eg model stone Celtic crosses, need to be packed in purpose-made boxes.
Confronted with an instruction sheet, two thicknesses of corrugated card, a metre rule, pencil, craft knife, glue gun and tape, I think all of us had a go, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, at making boxes.
Once all the Pitt-Rivers artefacts were safely stowed away, most volunteers moved on to other areas of the museum’s collections. However, when Adrian realised he still had a few willing box-makers (and lots of unused card) he introduced four of us to the History Store (up in the ‘gods’ behind a no-entry curtain!). There we found large models of Stonehenge, of barrows, and of flint mines and the like. Sue and Alan Haddock, Roger Collins and I have slowly worked our way through, producing custom-made boxes for these, and packing objects away.
Some boxes had to have little flaps at the side so that hands would be able to reach in and extract the models. Some had to have a front flap and a movable tray so that the object inside could be pulled out. Others have flip down sides. We were constrained by the size, shape and weight of each object, the amount of storage space on shelves, and, increasingly as time went on, by the size of the pieces of cardboard we had left.
Some models, like that of the flint mine, had little model people (and a dog!) attached, and all these had to be carefully swaddled. Packing became quite an art as once in the box, the object had to be immovable and protected from inadvertent knocks. Presumably quite a lot of these objects will be moved to the new storage unit at Old Sarum and we expect them to be able to survive the journey intact.
There are just a few of the very large models left. The Haddocks have moved on to other volunteer work and Roger and I are now the only box makers left. While we await some more large sheets of card, Adrian has found us some clocks to box and pack. What else will he find, we wonder?! It is very satisfying though, to know that we are helping to protect the museum’s collections for future generations.
As for me, I enjoy making boxes. I can’t speak for Roger!
It’s ‘all change’ in the Finds Office this week, with two sad ‘farewells’.
Nina Dierks (above left), our latest intern, from Germany, has been with us for several months. Her colleague, Fiona Johnstone (above right), acting Finds Liaison Officer for the last year, describes her protege as “brilliant”.
Sadly, both are leaving us this week. For Nina it is simply time to move on. Born in Munich, she is a student of Leipzig and Bonn Universities and in the process of working towards her Bachelor’s degree. She is possibly taking up work in historic building conservation in London before returning home, and we wish her well with that. We will miss her.
Nina has very much enjoyed her time with us, but when asked if anything has surprised her about England, she said she had expected cold and wet, but windy as well….?! We told her it was the Atlantic effect….
Fiona has been acting FLO for a year while Wiltshire FLO Richard Henry was curating the excellent and successful Terry Pratchett exhibition. Richard will be back with us next week and Fiona will move on.
Fiona was formerly a Volunteer with us, moving on to an internship in Hampshire and Sussex. She returned when the temporary post here became available. She has progressed from volunteering to training others in the identification of archaeological finds. From the Channel Islands, Fiona read Ancient History at Edinburgh University, graduating in 2015, and is now looking at FLO posts elsewhere. She has come a long way! We will miss Fiona too, and wish both these ladies well.
From Francesca Goff, of the British Museum…
At the end of November last year, I spent a fascinating week at Salisbury Museum as part of the British Museum’s Knowledge Exchange programme, a scheme that is supported by the Vivmar Foundation. Having heard excellent things about the programme from colleagues who had previously taken part, I was looking forward to the prospect of spending a week at a different museum learning about its volunteers and all that they did. Additionally, having already hosted Bridget Telfer, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Salisbury Museum, at the British Museum, I was pleased to have the opportunity to catch up with her and continue the conversations we had started about the volunteer programmes at our respective museums. However, I had not realised how beneficial my week in Salisbury would be, nor how much I would enjoy my time there.
Ahead of my arrival, Bridget planned a really exciting week of activities for me, with plenty of opportunities to get to know Salisbury Museum, its staff and its dedicated volunteers. My week began with a wonderful tour of the galleries by volunteer Paul Marsh. He seemed to know something about just about everything, and was full of interesting stories about what at first glance seemed the most innocuous looking objects. As coordinator of the volunteer-led tours of the British Museum and having delivered tours myself as a volunteer elsewhere, it was really interesting to hear about volunteer-led tours at Salisbury, and Bridget and I later discussed how these could be developed in the future.
I met with numerous staff over the course of the week, including Fiona Johnstone who works with the Portable Antiques Scheme, who I was pleased to discover had been a former volunteer at the British Museum. Each person I spoke to was full of praise about the volunteers who supported their work and it became clear that the volunteers were an essential part of the museum. I was lucky to have my visit coincide with a Volunteer Coffee Morning, during which Louise Tunnard, the Communications Officer, gave an in-depth talk to the volunteers about marketing Salisbury Museum. She was followed by two volunteers, Gail Davis and Kate Wickson, who spoke about their recent research on pilgrim badges. This prompted a discussion between the assembled volunteers and it was great fun to see everyone exchanging ideas. We have recently started hosting volunteer coffee mornings at the British Museum and participating in a similar event at Salisbury Museum gave me lots of room for thought.
Volunteer coffee morning at Salisbury Museum
The enthusiasm of staff was reflected by the many volunteers who I spent time with during my week in Salisbury. Volunteer Christine Mason spoke to me about the ‘Talking Objects’ project, which whilst on a smaller scale, is similar to the British Museum’s Hands-on Desks – but at Salisbury volunteers are able to select their own objects to show visitors with the assistance of Adrian Green, Director of Salisbury Museum. I found out about the vast amount of work volunteers have contributed to the ‘Finding Pitt-Rivers’ project; spent a cosy couple of hours with some of the Costume Project volunteers who were kind enough to bring out one of their favourite objects; and shadowed a school session led by Learning Officer Owain Hughes and volunteer Ian Dixon, an ex-teacher whose experience shone through
Bridget had also arranged visits to three other organisations supported by volunteers. I was fortunate enough to attend a volunteer-led Tower Tour at Salisbury Cathedral, for example, and looked down as Salisbury Museum from on high. On my last day in Salisbury, we took an excursion out to the Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne Minster and then visited Poole Museum, where we met their wonderful garden volunteers, out tending their plants despite the chilly weather. At each of these places it came through again and again how vital volunteers were to each organisation and how much they were valued. I was reminded constantly of how much support is given by volunteers to museums and galleries all over the UK, something which we celebrate annually at the British Museum through the Marsh Award for Volunteers in Museum Learning, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of those people who give their time and support for free.
Tower tour image of Salisbury Museum
My week at Salisbury Museum was enjoyable, useful and thought-provoking and I am enormously glad I had the chance to spend a week there through the Knowledge Exchange programme. Although there are differences between the volunteer programmes at the British Museum and Salisbury Museum in terms of size and specific roles, those are outweighed by similarities and the dedication shown by all volunteers involved in them. I wish the volunteers and staff at Salisbury Museum the best going forwards and want to say thank you to everyone who helped host me throughout the week.
Well, the Terry Pratchett:HisWorld exhibition has, all too soon, come to an end, and the army of Gallery Staff will be wondering what to do with all the spare time that has suddenly been bestowed upon them.
“Gods don’t like people not doing much work. People who aren’t busy all the time might start to think”.
A wonderful cameradie has developed among the Gallery Staff, and we are looking forward to meeting together again in the not too distant future, particularly as a colleague, Kara, was unable to be with us for the final week or two.
There were several quite crypic exhibits in the exhibition, the most emotive one being the encoded ‘embuggerance’ in Gallery 3. I liked to think that the reason for encoding this rude word was to avoid young children quizzing their parents as to its meaning. However, that theory was exploded when extra signage was placed right outside the café, pointing out the direction to the ‘Embuggerance’! It is astonishing how many people failed to notice this encoding. When asked whether they had noticed the significance of the letters in different font, some would reply, “Oh yes; they were the letters Terry couldn’t see very well!
Several of my colleagues were of the opinion that the term ‘embuggerance’ was coined by Sir Terry himself, but a Google search revealed that it was a military term dating back to the 1950s, but popularised following the 1990s Gulf War conflict when Andy McNab, formerly of the SAS, published his book Bravo Two Zero (2008).
I had already attended several shifts before I noticed another two further subtleties. One of these is that Gaspode the Wonder Dog, on the Interactive DiscWorld Massif says ’Woof’, when clicked. This was despite a massive clue in the second line down of the legend, which says, It looked up slowly and said ‘Woof!’. Having noticed this, I was disappointed that The Librarian doesn’t say ‘Ook’!
The other subtlety came to my attention late one afternoon when I was alone in Gallery 2, and wondered why I could hear birds twittering. It came, of course, from Terry’s office, where other sounds included sheep bleating and the cat purring. Several people asked, incidentally, where the cat slept now that Terry’s desk was in the Museum!
I was curious as to why there were two versions of Terry’s family motto. In Gallery 2, the family crest bore the motto, Non Timere Messorum, whereas the bronze bust in Gallery 3 bore the variant, Noli Timere Messorum. Resorting to Google again, I encountered various grammar nerds speculating that one means ‘Fear Not the Reaper’ whereas the other is subtly different and means ‘[I] do not fear the reaper’. Taking advantage of the presence of a visit by Paul Kidby one afternoon, I took the opportunity to ask him why Terry had these two versions. To my disappointment, he explained that the version on his armorial bearings hadn’t been properly considered, and was ‘dog Latin’, whereas they ensured it was grammatically correct for the bust. And there was I thinking that there must be a deep philosophical reason… .
However, the aspect that I most enjoyed explaining about the exhibition is how well it fitted with the raison d’etre of the Museum. Thus in his book, ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’, Terry describes a ‘chalk giant who isn’t wearing trousers, and he’s male; very definitely male!’. One realises immediately that this is the Cerne Abbas Giant, and, in the previous exhibition, ‘British Art Ancient Landscapes’, there had been a large painting of the Cerne Abbas Giant in Gallery 2. Also in that exhibition there was a painting by Eric Ravilious which depicted the ‘Long Man of Wilmington’ and an illustration of the Uffington White Horse… and what should be depicted on Paul Kidby’s painting, ‘The Chalk’ but the Uffington White Horse – in the top left hand corner. This painting was also chosen to replace the view out of Terry’s office window.
I’ve just become aware of how many exclamation marks I’ve used in this piece. To quote Sir Terry, “Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind”!
My week at the British Museum, by The Salisbury Museum’s Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridget Telfer – Part One
I returned from my Knowledge Exchange placement at the British Museum just over three weeks ago – and what a fabulous and inspiring time away in one of the world’s top museums! Knowledge Exchange is a British Museum programme developed to support staff exchanges with museums, galleries and heritage organisations across the UK, enabling staff to share best practice and support their individual professional development. This year the British Museum worked with seven partners on this scheme – and Salisbury Museum was lucky enough to be one of them.
The week was a whirlwind of meetings with different British Museum staff who work with volunteers across the museum. Based in the Volunteers’ Office there was an immediately interesting comparison between their staffing levels – with almost the equivalent of five full time members of staff at the British Museum (albeit with a couple on short term contracts) in comparison to my 2.5 days a week at Salisbury. But although we vary somewhat in size and resources (the British Museum has c600 volunteers and c900 staff; and Salisbury Museum c230 volunteers and c18 staff) there were many shared positive experiences and challenges in working with volunteers.
I was hugely impressed by their programme of volunteer led public tours and by the level of knowledge of the volunteers who guided the eye-opener tours on Ancient Greece and Egypt that I attended. These are 30-minute free guided tours that focus on an individual gallery. The British Museum have a small army of 150 volunteers that lead these tours – 15 eye-opener tours take place each day across an array of galleries and subjects 7 days a week. That’s 5,475 eye-opener tours a year!
And then you also have the volunteer led Highlights Tour that takes place daily. A whistle-stop tour of the entire museum over an hour and a half – no mean feat for a volunteer tour leader to not only have this expanse of knowledge but to also be able to navigate a large group through a busy museum. Their delivery is helped by the expensive sound system that the British Museum has invested in – which means that every tour member has a set of headphones and can clearly hear the tour leader even if they are some distance away – a necessary piece of equipment as some of the more popular galleries are very busy and noisy with school groups and other visitors.
The volunteer staff team invest heavily in the training of their tour volunteers – and this is immediately apparent when on one of these tours. Each volunteer goes through a programme of training which includes shadowing other experienced volunteers leading tours; training on how to deliver a tour and issues that can arise; curatorial sessions with the British Museum curators; individual sessions with volunteer staff to work on the script; and then leading practice tours to other new volunteers and staff. All this before they are unleashed on the public!
We will hear more from Bridget next week – a fascinating insight into the working of the British Museum. The Knowledge Exchange programme is kindly sponsored by the Vivmar Foundation.