The Lecture Hall has been packed today for another of our half-term holiday activities. Thank you to all our Volunteers who make these things possible!
Our Exhibitions Officer is returning home…
My last day at the office and before I leave for new pastures, I wanted to write to you all. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here at the museum. Over the years, I have been part of creating some wonderful exhibitions (British Art: Ancient Landscapes, John Craxton: A Poetic Eye, John Hinchcliffe) and met some lovely and interesting people. I will be sad not to see Henry Lamb: Out of the Shadows going up in our gallery but I will definitely will come and see it when it is finished!
A special thanks to Christine Mason, David Chilton and Bob Hambling for always helping me with painting and setting up the exhibition.
My new job will be as Heritage Coordinator for the Lower Campine Region in Belgium. It is for an organisation that helps city councils with heritage related issues and questions. A bit like English Heritage but Belgian Heritage. One of my first projects will be around Celtic Field systems and opening them to the public. This is very exciting as I did a lot of research on prehistoric field systems and did my dissertation on Celtic Field systems in particular.
It will be nice to live closer to my family but I will miss the UK and all my friends. It has become my second home.
I wish the museum all the best of luck for the exciting future coming up.
All best, Joy
Very best wishes Joy. You will be missed.
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”!
One giant LEGO mosaic with 960 tiles and 61,440 bricks
Thirty six volunteers
One hundred and thirty models of ‘The Luggage’ constructed
Four hundred and sixty visitors
The Staff Team
Not quite the Twelve Days of Christmas! BUT we overcame rain inside the marquee, cling filming LEGO in the dark, avoided a storm, managed to keep warm (mostly) and delivered another amazing event to our visitors.
Sincere thanks to you all for everything you contributed towards a wonderful day.
See the finished article in the museum now.
An occasional series – highlighting some of the museum’s incredible collection of costume and the excellent work of our NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) Volunteers…
c 1852 Day Dress (a photo taken for cataloguing purposes only)
Described as “A long blue and cream plaid dress with three quarter length sleeves. Front fastening to the waist with three linen buttons. Cape attached at neck”
Sir Walter Scott’s novels of the early nineteenth century had romanticized life in the Scottish Highlands and he was a great advocate for all things Scottish. The romantic image of clan members in kilts and maidens in fields of heather charmed English ladies, including Queen Victoria. Tartans became very popular. Balmoral, built by Victoria and Albert in 1853, was furnished exclusively in tartans – carpets, curtains, upholstery – and Victoria herself wore tartans.
Last week, our Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridge Telfer, went to the British Museum for the week as part of the Knowledge Exchange programme that the British Museum runs. The exchange allows the sharing of knowledge and skills between organisations and in turn organisations gain new ideas and experience. Bridget had a fantastic week at the museum learning how they manage their team of c 600 volunteers! And next week Salisbury Museum is hosting the British Museum’s Volunteer Manager Francesca Goff. Read Bridget and Francesca’s blogs over the next few weeks….
SALOG Volunteers’ Visit to Old Sarum and Stonehenge Visitor Centre
Just before the museum closed for the day one evening in mid-October, I was intrigued to see Professor Mike Parker-Pearson of the Stonehenge Riverside Project deep in conversation with somebody in the café. My curiosity was satiated the following day when watching BBC TV ‘South Today’ during which it was reported that he was due to open a new exhibition at the Stonehenge Visitors Centre, ‘Feast! Food at Stonehenge’, which invites visitors to explore the diet and lifestyle of the people that built Stonehenge; and the culture, rituals and identity of food in prehistory (see photos of reconstructed buildings at Stonehenge, below).
This was the subject of the second part of a SALOG Volunteers social afternoon on Monday 30th October.
On arrival at the Stonehenge Visitors Centre, Volunteers from Salisbury Museum, Wiltshire Museum, English Heritage, the National Trust and Wessex Archaeology were given time to mingle and to enjoy coffee and biscuits before being given a ten minute introduction to the exhibition by the Interpretation Officer, Hannah Brown. We were then allowed to explore the exhibition at leisure.
By way of background, the objective of the Stonehenge Riverside Project was to examine the relationship between the Stonehenge stones and surrounding monuments and features, including the River Avon, Durrington Walls, the Cursus, the Avenue, Woodhenge, and various burial mounds, and nearby standing stones. The main aim of the project was to test the hypothesis that Stonehenge was a monument dedicated to the dead, whilst Woodhenge & Durrington Walls, two miles away, were monuments to the living and more recently deceased.
It is believed that the builders of Stonehenge settled in nearby Durrington Walls in the 25th century B.C. and excavations of this site have revealed an abundance of food waste, stone tools and pottery, which are thus available for analysis.
From these artifacts, scientists have been able to show that our ancestors were bringing animals from as far away as Scotland, some 500 miles away, suggesting that Stonehenge was an important site known right across Britain at this time, and that people were travelling these sorts of distances in order to participate both in the building of the monument, which occurred in several phases, and in midwinter feasts. Some discussion ensued as to the logistics of driving animals these distances, and the time it would take.
As a chemist, I was particularly interested in the techniques used to establish these facts. For example, animal bones can be identified by inspection and it is clear that our Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge were deriving meat from a variety of sources: cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. The distances travelled were established by analysing the ratios of strontium isotopes in their teeth by the technique of Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy. Strontium compounds, which mimic calcium compounds and therefore enter animals’ teeth, are present in the soil and enter the animals through the food chain. The particular ratios of strontium isotopes identified reflect the underlying geology where the animal once lived. As a chemist and, latterly a chemistry teacher, I was impressed by the clarity of the diagrams used to illustrate these points, and would have been delighted to have had this example and diagram illustrate this analytical technique (Fig 1).
Another point of interest for me was the fact that Neolithic people were lactose-intolerant, and had to turn milk into products such as cheese and yoghurt before consumption (Fig 2 below):
This reminded me of a particularly popular experiment I devised for Key Stage 3 Science students, where we used rennet to curdle milk to make junket. We flavoured the product with strawberries and were able to consume it afterwards, having taken appropriate H&S precautions during the preparation. Again, this would have been a useful illustration to have used at the time.
Earlier there was a visit to the inner bailey at Old Sarum.
Being only a mile from my home I am very familiar with this site. Nevertheless, some new things were brought to my attention, for example a ‘mason’s mark’ on a stone block in the east range of the courtyard house (Fig 3).
A question was asked and some discussion ensued about the little-known tunnel which once existed through the northern rampart, the site of which is still visible (Fig 4).
The English Heritage ‘Old Sarum’ guidebook tells us that this tunnel was first discovered in 1795. This discovery was recorded in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ of February 2nd, 1795. Following this, the tunnel was much visited by members of the public for several years before being re-sealed in 1822.
The tunnel was re-excavated in 1957 by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (now Department of the Environment) assisted by members of the archaeology section of the Salisbury and District Field Club, including Davids Algar, Sanders and Truckle, during which, among other things, examples of dated 18th Century obscene Anglo-Saxon graffiti were found.
Nobody is quite sure who built this tunnel, or for what reason. Its construction was apparently beyond the skills of Iron Age Man, but various people have speculated that it was built by the Romans or the Normans. One theory, which was also that espoused by our EH Guide during this visit, is that it was a ‘sally-port’ to enable an enemy force to be attacked from the rear or, if the city were besieged, to provide a means of escape from it.
A fuller description of this tunnel and the 1957 excavation can be found in The [Salisbury] Journal of 13th October, 1988, ‘’Old Sarum’s Secret Tunnel’ .
By Volunteer Alan Crooks Monday 30th October 2017
It is always nice to receive thanks, and to have some feedback….
Thank you for a super afternoon on Monday. The information gained added to what we already knew, and Stonehenge Visitors’ Centre displays were particularly interesting. I know from talking to others that our “work” as Engagement Officers has already been enhanced by Monday’s experiences, and additional information given to visitors at Salisbury Museum has been appreciated. These days out also enable us to meet up with other volunteers, which is great!
From a Salisbury Museum Volunteer
With the Terry Pratchett: HisWorld exhibition as their inspiration, one hundred children this morning, and surely as many this afternoon, have reveled in the opportunity to allow their imagination to run riot. They have been creating their own worlds, using a tempting array of resources, with wonderful results.
The adults present were clearly enjoying the creativity as much as the youngsters! Thank you Liza Morgan and thank you, as always, to the willing Volunteers, without whom these things could not happen.